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Company and Jurisdictions

British Virgin Islands

International Business Company (IBC)

Legislation: Standard capital:
International Business Companies Act, Cap. 291. Minimum of either one share of par or no par value, but usually USD 50,000 being the maximum capital for the minimum duty payable, initially and annually.
Annual government fees: Corporate Taxation:
USD 300 for authorised capital up to USD 50,000, USD 1,000 if above; USD 350 for companies with a share capital below USD 50,000 and having a portion or all of shares with no par value; USD 1,000 for any company which retains the ability to issue bearer shares. Zero
Time to incorporate: Ready-made companies:
24 hours Yes.
Minimum members: Registered office required:
One, individual or corporate. Yes, must be maintained in the BVI.
Local registered agent: Minimum number directors:
Yes. One, individual or corporate. No requirement to file with Registrar.
Officer to be locally resident: AGM required:
Yes. No.
Annual return required: Financial statements to be prepared and/or audited:
Each company must file a short statement indicating that it has traded mainly outside the islands and has complied with the various statutory requirements. Company is required to keep financial records reflecting financial position of the company.
Balance sheets to be filed: Share register required:
No. Yes, at registered office
To be filed with Registrar: Open to public inspection:
No. No.
Exchange controls: Redomiciliation permitted:
None. 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:  
Yes, but must be immobilised and attract greater charges see above.


Advantages

Disadvantages


  • Highly popular jurisdiction.
  • Law is familiar to most lawyers who deal with offshore matters.
  • Flexible legislation allows the operation of the company to be almost totally dependant on the requirements of the client.
  • Poor legal and banking services.
  • Lack of name availability.
  • Not a recommended jurisdiction for high profile trading corporations.

International Agreements

OECD Harmful Tax Practices

The BVI was among 35 jurisdictions identified by the OECD in June 2000 as meeting the technical criteria for being a tax haven. On 2 April 2002, the BVI’ government 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)

The BVI signed a bilateral TIEA with the USA that came into force on 3 April 2002 .

EU Savings Tax Directive

The BVI announced on 27 April 2005 that it will implement a transitional withholding tax on bank interest or other savings income earned by residents of the EU in respect of the European Savings Tax Directive, which is due to enter force on 1 July 2005.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

In June 2000, the FATF found t he BVI was committed to implementing solid legislation and regulatory measures against money laundering. The BVI was not one of 15 countries or territories that it identified as Non-Cooperative (NCCT) in the fight against money laundering .

The BVI is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force and received a second mutual evaluation of its financial sector and regulations during November 2003. The Financial Investigation Agency is a member of the Egmont Group.

Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs)

Application of the US/UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty concerning the Cayman Islands was extended to the BVI in 1990.

Tax Treaties

The BVI has a double tax treaty with the UK, and the UK’s tax treaties with Japan and Switzerland have also been extended to the BVI. The benefit of these treaties applies only to BVI resident companies.


General Info

Full Country Name: British Virgin Islands
Dependency status: UK Overseas Territory
Area: 153 sq km (59 sq miles)
Population: 21,300 (estimate for 2003)
Capital City: Road Town, Tortola
Nationality: Tortolians, British Virgin Islanders
People: Afro-Caribbean 83%, European, Chinese, Indians, Portuguese, Middle-Eastern
Languages: English
Currency: US Dollar (USD)
Government: parliamentary British overseas territory with internal self-government
Legal system: English law
Head of State: HM Queen Elizabeth II

Geography

The British Virgin Islands are adjacent to the US Virgin Islands (USVI) and 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. The BVI comprises over 40 islands, islets and cays (some little more than rocks) with a total land area of only 59 sq miles scattered over some 1,330 sq miles of sea. Sixteen of the islands are inhabited, the largest being Tortola (21 sq miles), Anegada (15 sq miles), Virgin Gorda (8 sq miles) and Jost van Dyke (3.4 sq miles). Lush vegetation, sandy beaches, numerous yachting marinas and fine coral reefs make the islands a natural tourist destination.


History

Discovered by Columbus in 1493, the islands came into British possession in 1666 when planters took control from the original Dutch settlers. The British annexed the islands in 1672. In 1872 they were incorporated into the British colony of the Leeward Islands. These islands were administered under a federal system until 1956 when the Federation was dissolved. The Governor of the Leeward Islands continued to run BVI until 1960 when an appointed Administrator (later a Governor) assumed direct responsibility.


Government and Politics

Executive branch
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor Tom Macan (since 14 October 2002)
Head of Government:

Chief Minister Orlando D. Smith (since 17 June 2003)

Deputy Prime Minister: -
Cabinet: Executive Council appointed by the Governor from members of the Legislative Council
Elections: none; the Monarch is hereditary; Governor appointed by the Monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed Chief Minister by the Governor
Legislative branch

Unicameral Legislative Council (13 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote, one member from each of 9 electoral districts, four at-large members; members serve four-year terms)

Elections: last held 16 May 2003 (next to be held in 2007)

Election results: seats by party - NDP 8, VIP 5

Judicial branch

Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, consisting of the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal (one judge of the Supreme Court is a resident of the islands and presides over the High Court); Magistrate's Court; Juvenile Court; Court of Summary Jurisdiction

Political parties and leaders

Concerned Citizens Movement or CCM (Ethlyn Smith); National Democratic Party or NDP (Orlando Smith); United Party or UP (Gregory Maduro); Virgin Islands Party or VIP (Ralph T. O'Neal)


Economy

Basic economic facts

GDP (2004 est.): $2.498 billion

Growth rate (2002 est.): 1%

Per capita GDP (2004 est.): $38,500

Main Industries: tourism, international financial services

The economy, one of the most stable and prosperous in the Caribbean, is highly dependent on tourism, generating an estimated 45% of the national income. An estimated 350,000 tourists, mainly from the US, visited the islands in 1998. Tourism suffered in 2002 because of the lackluster US economy.

The offshore sector offers incorporation and management of offshore companies, and provision of offshore financial and corporate services. The BVI has 11 banks, 2,023 mutual funds with 448 licensed mutual fund managers/administrators, 312 local and captive insurance companies, 1,000 registered vessels, 90 licensed general trust companies, and 544,000 international business companies (IBCs).

According to the International Business Companies Act of 1984, BVI-registered IBCs cannot engage in business with BVI residents, provide registered offices or agent facilities for BVI-incorporated companies, or own an interest in real property located in the BVI except for office leases. BVI has approximately 90 registered agents that are licensed by the Financial Services Commission (FSC), which was established 7 December 2001. The law transferred responsibility for regulatory oversight of the financial services sector from a government body, the Financial Services Department, to the FSC, an autonomous regulatory body. The process for registering banks, trust companies, and insurers is governed by legislation that requires detailed documentation, such as a business plan and vetting by the appropriate supervisor within the FSC. Registered agents must verify the identities of their clients.

The Proceeds of Criminal Conduct Act of 1997 expanded predicate offenses for money laundering to all criminal conduct, and allows the BVI Court to grant confiscation orders against those convicted of an offense or who have benefited from criminal conduct. The law also created a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), referred to as the Reporting Authority-Financial Services Inspectorate and responsible for the collection of suspicious activity reports. Under the Financial Investigation Agency Act 2003, implemented in 2004, the FIU was reorganized and renamed the Financial Investigation Agency.

The BVI has proposed a Code of Conduct (Service Providers) Act (CCSPA), which would encourage professionalism, enhance measures to deter criminal activity, promote ethical conduct, and encourage greater self-regulation in the financial sector. The CCSPA also would establish the Council of Service Providers, a body that would regulate the conduct of individuals within the financial services industry. Additionally, the CCSPA would formulate policy, procedures, and other measures to regulate the industry, advise the government on legislation and policy matters, and monitor compliance within the industry. The current status of this proposal is not available.

In 2000, the Information Assistance (Financial Services) Act (IAFSA) was enacted to increase the scope of cooperation between BVI’s regulators and regulators from other countries.

Because of traditionally close links with the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands has used the dollar as its currency since 1959.

The UK is responsible for BVI's external relations, defence and internal security. The BVI is an associate member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).






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