Belize is an independent British Commonwealth country, located on the eastern coast of Central America, with population of about 290 000. Belize was the British colony for more than 100 years, and attained independence from Britain in 1981. Now Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America. However, most Belizeans use an English-based Belize Creole, and Spanish is very widely used, as it is the mother tongue of Mestizo and Central American settlers.

Belize is very ethnically diverse and multilingual society with 49% Mestizo, 25% Creole, 11% Maya, 6% Garifuna and 9% other.

Geographically Belize is divided into 6 districts: Belize, Corozal, Cayo, Orange Walk, Stann Creek and Toledo. The capital of the country is Belmopan, with 12 000 people is the smallest national capital in the world. Belize City with a population of 80,000 is the largest city of the country as well as the major commercial centre and one of the most urbanised centres of Belize. Other big cities of Belize are Corozal Town, Orange Walk Town, and some others.

Belize is politically stable country with parliamentarydemocracy and constitutional monarchy that recongnizes Queen Elizabeth II as sovereign. It is represented by Governor General Sir Colville Young, Sr. The Head of Government is Prime Minister Said Wilbert Musa, the ministers are chosen by him from the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the Governor General. Belize's legal system is based on common law. The Caribbean Court of Justice serves as an appeal court in civil and criminal cases from common law courts in member countries.

The leading parties are People's United Party (PUP) and United Democratic Party (UDP). General elections are held at intervals of not longer than once per 5 years.

Belizean economy is most of all based on tourism, as well as on marine and agriculture product export. Belize is also developing the industry of international financial services. Main economical partners of Belize are the U.S. and the UK.

Belize Offshore Business Environment

Belize is a recent member of international financial services community. Having gained independence from Great Britain, Belize started to develop international financial services sector of economy, and achieved very good results by becoming a modern and convenient offshore jurisdiction which is becoming more and more popular.

The domestic taxation of Belize is moderate. A turnover tax is small, corporation tax is 25%. There is up to 45% tax on income and social contributions. The four commercial banks of Belize are regulated by the Central Bank of Belize according to the provisions of the Banking Act. Air and sea communications as well as telecommunications are very good. The last ones are, however, too expensive, as the telecommunications monopoly is holding back development.

One of the main advantages of Belize is its offshore legislation, which is extremely flexible; being already excellent, it is constantly developed and improved. Belize offshore business services were first offered in 1989 with the enactment of the Registration of Merchant Ships Act. Then in 1990 Belize passed the International Business Companies Act based on the British Virgin Islands model; that made Belize IBC an ideally convenient corporate vehicle for international financial transactions and activities, such as asset protection, operating bank accounts, commission arrangements, diverse kinds of commercial transactions, ship ownership, etc.

A Trusts Act, 1992, provided for the incorporation of both onshore and especially offshore trusts as flexible and modern asset protection tools. For example, one of the advantages is that a Belize trust may not be set aside because of creditor claims from other jurisdictions, or a foreign court order on any account except for criminal cases.

In 1996 offshore legislation was supplemented by the Offshore Banking Act providing for 2 categories of offshore banking licences, which actually mean dividing into the domestic and international categories of banking activities.

Belize provides for development of many offshore schemes that include a modern trusts law, IBC legislation and an array of free zones and investment incentive schemes. There was a kind of international pressure to make Belize moderate its offshore regime, but it seems to have weakened in 2003. Belize has Double Tax Treaties with UK, Sweden, Denmark and CARICOM countries.

The wide range of investment vehicles offered by Belize now meets the demands of most international investors and includes International Business Companies, Trust Funds, Private Companies, Limited Liability Partnerships, Public Investment Companies, Limited Life Companies, Mutual Funds, etc. However, almost all offshore and foreign businesses use just 2 of the business forms available - the Belize IBC or Trust, either separately or in combination.

Belize International Business Company

Belize International Business Company (IBC) is set up under the International Business Company Act 1990. Belize IBC may be used for the following purposes:

  • establishing securities trading accounts in the USA, Europe, Canada;

  • holding title to real estate in other jurisdictions;

  • collecting commissions, royalties or dividends, re-invoicing trade transactions.

A Belize IBC is often incorporated by trusts established under Belize law as an asset-holding device for the trust.

Belize IBC is exempt from most types of taxation under the International Business Company Act, 1990, provided that the company meets the certain number of requirements the main of which is conducting no business within the jurisdiction. Belize IBC's can however hold offshore bank accounts in the local banks.

Belize IBC is not liable to pay stamp duties and taxes on:

  • all income of an IBC;

  • all interests, rent, royalties, compensations paid by an IBC to Belize non-residents;

  • capital gains realized on any shares, debt obligations or other securities of an IBC by Belize non-residents;

  • all dividends paid by an IBC to Belize residents or non-residents.

IBC Features

A Belizean IBC is a very cost-effective offshore vehicle, which also can be incorporated in maximum 3 working days. Belize's legislation facilitates quick and simple incorporation. An IBC is formed by filing Articles and Memorandum of Association as well as the fees.

The main features of a Belize IBC are:

  • Incorporation in max 3 working days;

  • competitive incorporation prices and annual fees;

  • exemption from any forms of taxation including income tax, capital gains or transaction tax;

  • no minimum paid up capital required, capital in any currency;

  • IBC standard share capital is USD 50 000, the higher amount may be declared in exchange for a higher annual fee;

  • Bearer shares are allowed, but must be held with a licenced custodian;

  • the details of shareholders and directors are not available on the public file;

  • minimum one director and one shareholder may be required, they can be either an individual or a corporation;

  • the same person can be the director and the shareholder;

  • secretary is not required;

  • nominee shareholders can be local licensed registered agents;

  • The Register of Members and Directors should be kept at Registered Office;

  • the only information that appears on the public record are Memorandum & Articles of Association, as well as the details of a Registered Agent and a Local Registered Office;

  • no filing of audits and accounting reports;

  • penalty fees of up to 50% of the annual liecence fee are payable if it is not paid when due;

  • no requirement for meetings of directors and shareholders;

  • no exchange control;

  • the possibility of re-domiciliation;

  • the status of the company should be denoted by suffixes "Limited", "Corporation", "Incorporation", "Societe Anonyme", "Sociedad Anonima", "Ltd.", "Corp.", "Inc.", "S.A.", "AG".