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Company and Jurisdictions

Belize

International Business Company (IBC)

Legislation: Standard capital:
The International Business Companies Act, 1990. USD 50,000, being the maximum capital for the minimum duty payable annually.
Annual government fees: Corporate Taxation:
USD 100 Zero
Time to incorporate: Ready-made companies:
24 hours Available.
Minimum members: Registered office required:
One, individual or corporate. Yes, at address of a licensed registered agent in Belize.
Local registered agent: Minimum number directors:
Yes. One, individual or corporate.
Officer to be locally resident: AGM required:
No. No.
Annual return required: Financial statements to be prepared and/or audited:
No. Company is required to keep financial records reflecting financial position of the company but there is no need to record or file these with the authorities.
Balance sheets to be filed: Share register required:
No. Yes, at registered office
To be filed with Registrar: Open to public inspection:
No. No, but open to other members
Exchange controls: Redomiciliation permitted:
No. Yes, in and out.
Language of incorporation: Confidentiality:
English. No specific statutory provisions in relation to companies, but a common law duty on professionals to keep affairs of clients confidential.
Bearer shares permitted:  
No

 

Advantages

Disadvantages


  • Flexible legislation, based on that of the British Virgin Islands
  • Quick, simple and cheap incorporation
  • Not affected by EU savings directive
  • Some commentators have concerns about political stability
  • Poor image due to lack of marketing

International Agreements

OECD Harmful Tax Practices

Belize was among 35 jurisdictions identified by the OECD in June 2000 as meeting the technical criteria for being a tax haven. On 8 March 2002, the government of Belize signed a commitment to improve the transparency of its tax and regulatory systems and establish effective exchange of information for tax matters with OECD countries by 31 December 2005.

Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA)

None.

EU Savings Tax Directive

Not applicable.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

Belize was not one of 15 countries or territories identified by the FATF in June 2000 as Non-Cooperative (NCCT) in the fight against money laundering. Since criminalising money laundering in 1996, it found, Belize had generally pursued policies in law and regulation aimed at fostering a sound anti-money laundering regime.

Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs)

Belize has signed an MLAT, which provides for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, with the United States.

Tax Treaties

Belize is not a party to any double tax agreements.


General Info

Full Country Name: Belize (former: British Honduras)
Area: 22,965 sq. km (8,867 square miles)
Population: 240,204
Capital City: Belmopan (population: 8,130 at census of 12 May 2000)
Nationality: Belizean
People: Mestizos (Maya/Spanish) 53%, Afro-Caribbean (25%), Maya 10%, European, East Indian and Chinese 6%, and Garifuna 6%.
Languages: Officially English; however, over half the population speak Spanish and Creole is also widely spoken. There are a number of indigenous languages, such as Garifuna, Maya and Ketchi.
Currency: Belizean Dollar (BZD). BZD 2 equates to US$1.
Government: Parliamentary democracy
Legal system: English law
Head of State: HM Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a Governor-General

Geography

Belize lies on the Caribbean coast of Central America, bordering Mexico and Guatemala. It has a well-preserved environment and the world's fifth longest barrier reef and the longest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere (184 miles long) running along the offshore islands (or Cayes). Much of the country is unpopulated forest area .


History

The Mayan civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 BC and AD 300 and flourished until about AD 1200. Several major archeological sites – notably Caracol, Lamanai, Lubaantun, Altun Ha, and Xunantunich – reflect the advanced civilization and much denser population of that period. European contact began in 1502 when Christopher Columbus sailed along the coast. Shipwrecked English seamen established the first recorded European settlement in 1638. Over the next 150 years, more English settlements were established. Piracy, indiscriminate logging, and sporadic attacks by Indians and neighboring Spanish settlements marked this period. Great Britain first sent an official representative to the area in the late 18th century, but Belize was not formally termed the "Colony of British Honduras" until 1840. It became a crown colony in 1862. Subsequently, several constitutional changes were enacted to expand representative government. Full internal self-government under a ministerial system was granted in January 1964. The official name of the territory was changed from British Honduras to Belize in June 1973, and full independence was granted on 21 September 1981. Belize is the only Commonwealth country in Central America.


Government and Politics

Executive branch
Head of State: HM Queen Elizabeth II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Sir Colville Young, Sr. (since 17 November 1993)
Head of Government:

Prime Minister Said Wilbert Musa (since 28 August 1998)

Deputy Prime Minister: John Briceno (since 1 September 1998)
Cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister
Elections: None; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed Prime Minister by the Governor General; Prime Minister recommends the Deputy Prime Minister
Legislative branch

Bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (12 members appointed by the Governor General - six on the advice of the Prime Minister, three on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and one each on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Better Business Bureau, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee; members are appointed for five-year terms) and the House of Representatives (29 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)

Elections: House of Representatives - last held 5 March 2003 (next to be held March 2008)

Election results: seats by party - PUP 21, UDP 8

Judicial branch

Supreme Court (the Chief Justice is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister)

The judicial system includes local magistrates, the Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeal. Cases may, under certain circumstances, be appealed to the Privy Council in London. However, in 2001 Belize joined with most members of the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM) to work for the establishment of a "Caribbean Court of Justice," which is expected to come into being in the near future.

Political parties and leaders

People's United Party or PUP (Said Musa); United Democratic Party or UDP (Dean Barrow, party leader; Douglas Singh, party chairman)

The PUP has governed Belize from 1998 to the present; the UDP from 1993-98; the PUP from 1989-1993; and the UDP from 1984-89. Before 1984, the PUP had dominated the electoral scene for more than 30 years and was the party in power when Belize became independent in 1981.

Prime Minister Said Musa has an ambitious plan to encourage economic growth while furthering social-sector development. Belize traditionally maintains a deep interest in the environment and sustainable development. A lack of government resources seriously hampers these goals. On other fronts, the government is working to improve its law enforcement capabilities. A longstanding territorial dispute with Guatemala continues, although cooperation between the two countries has increased in recent years across a wide spectrum of common interests, including trade and environment. Belize is actively involved with the Caribbean nations of CARICOM and has also taken steps to work more closely with its Central American neighbours as a member of SICA (Central American Integration System).

Economy

Basic economic facts

GDP (2004 est): $1.778 billion

Growth rate (2004 est.): 3.5% (2004 est.)

Per capita GDP (2004 est.): $6,500 (2004 est.)

Main industries: agriculture: 17.7%, industry: 15%, services: 67.3% (2003 est.)

Belize is not a major regional financial centre. In an attempt to diversify Belize’s economic activities, authorities have encouraged the growth of offshore financial activities and have pegged the Belizean dollar to the U.S. dollar. Belize now offers financial and corporate services to non-residents. Presently, there are eight licensed offshore banks, approximately 35,205 registered international business companies (IBCs), one licensed offshore insurance company and one mutual fund company operating in Belize. The number of offshore trusts operating from within Belize cannot be readily determined and there are also a number of undisclosed Internet gaming sites operating from within Belize.

Offshore banks, international business companies and trusts are authorised to operate from within Belize, although shell banks are prohibited within the jurisdiction. The Offshore Banking Act, 1996 governs activities of Belize’s offshore banks. The Central Bank of Belize, the same agency that regulates domestic banks, regulates offshore banks. Banks are not permitted to issue bearer shares. Nevertheless, all licensed financial institutions in Belize (onshore and offshore) are governed by the same anti-money laundering legislation and must adhere to the same anti-money laundering requirements. To legally operate from within Belize all offshore banks must be licensed. The legislation governing the licensing of offshore banks does not permit directors to act in a nominee capacity.

The International Business Companies Act of 1990 and its 1995 and 1999 amendments govern the operation of IBCs. The 1999 amendment to the Act allows IBCs to operate as banks and insurance companies. The International Financial Services Commission regulates the rest of the offshore sector. All IBCs must be registered. Registered agents of IBCs must satisfy the International Financial Services Commission that they conduct due diligence background checks before IBCs are allowed to register. Although IBCs are allowed to issue bearer shares, the registered agents of such companies, must know the identity of the beneficial owners of the bearer shares. In addition, registered agents must satisfy certain criteria to obtain licences in order to perform offshore services. Belize’s legislation on IBCs allows for the appointment of nominee directors. The legislation for trust companies, the Belize Trust Act, 1992, does not preclude the appointment of nominee trustees.

The small, essentially private enterprise economy is based primarily on agriculture - agro-based industry (dominated by sugar refining and citrus processing), and merchandising. Tourism, construction and marine products are assuming greater importance. Sugar, the chief crop, accounts for nearly half of exports, while the banana industry is the country's largest employer. Maize beans, rice and cocoa are grown. Honey production, eggs and poultry increased significantly in the 1980s.

Tourism is the second largest foreign currency earner after agriculture. The government's tough austerity programme in 1997 resulted in an economic slowdown that continued in 1998. The trade deficit has been growing, mostly as a result of low export prices for sugar and bananas. These industries also suffered heavy losses as a result of extensive flooding caused by Hurricanes Mitch (1998) and Keith (2000), and Tropical Storm Chantal and Hurricane Iris in 2001.

The government faces important challenges to maintain economic stability. Rapid action to improve tax collection has been promised, but the Government's proposals have met with strong resistance, particularly by the unions, who have forced them to make some concessions. The 2005 Budget seeks to bridge a $90 million funding gap and is seen by some as being too ambitious and unrealistic.

Belize is a member of the United Nations and WTO (World Trade Organisation) and the regional groupings of CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market), SICA (Central American Integration System), OAS (Organisation of American States), Commonwealth, ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific), NAM (Non-Aligned Movement), San Jose Group, Association of Caribbean States (ACS), CDB (Caribbean Development Bank), the World Bank Group, IMF (International Monetary Fund), IADB (Inter-American Development Bank), and the Egmont Group.





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