Belize is an independent country in Central America, south of Mexico in the southern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula. Its geographic location offers Belize the strategic advantage of being able to deal directly with US and European markets during normal trading hours.
The legal system is based on British common law and closely reflects that of other English speaking Caribbean jurisdictions. The court of final appeal is the Caribbean Court of Justice in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The Belize dollar (BZD) is the local currency which is pegged to the United States Dollar at a rate of BZ$2 to US$1, though generally offshore transactions take place in USD.
Belize’s infrastructure for business is well developed and there is a healthy and educated English speaking labour force. The country has first rate telecommunication links with the rest of the world and convenient air services direct to the US. Although there are foreign exchange controls, such controls do not adversely affect the ability of a business to repatriate capital and profits. The business and official language is English and Spanish the second unofficial language.
Belize was previously governed by The United Kingdom and known as British Honduras. In 1981 Belize became an independent nation. There is a written Constitution and Westminster style of government with a National Assembly being elected every five years by universal suffrage.
The Belize offshore jurisdiction was created by a series of Acts passed by the Belize National Assembly in the early 1990s. The legislation creates a ‘Chinese wall’ between the offshore regime and domestic jurisdiction of Belize. This enables entities within the offshore regime to carry out their business activities with maximum freedom and flexibility.
Entities established within the offshore jurisdiction are exempt from any form of direct taxation in Belize including stamp duty, capital gains, capital duty and withholding tax. There are no foreign exchange controls in relation to offshore entities.
Company and bank employees in Belize are to observe strict secrecy. These provisions are backed by penal sanctions. The statutory records, which are the Memorandum and Articles of Association which includes the name and address of the Registered Agent and Office must be filed at the Registry of the International Business Companies and are the only documents that may be viewed by the general public.
International Business Companies (IBC’s) incorporated in Belize permit a great deal of flexibility in corporate structure with provisions to ensure ease of administration. An IBC is designed to give maximum benefit in global commercial transactions. Incorporation can normally be completed within 24 hours.
In 1992, the Belizean National Assembly passed the Trusts Act (now known as Chapter 202 of the Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2000). This legislation is distinct in certain respects from other jurisdictions, for example, in its treatment of the often vexatious issue of fraudulent conveyances, dealt with by section 7 of the Trusts Act which seeks to protect any asset transferred to a trust in Belize from a fraudulent conveyance claim.
Belize also has specific legislation that allows international banking and insurance business to be conducted in a secure tax-free environment.