Belize: Offshore Business Sectors
The introduction in the early 1990's of International Business Company legislation, together with a range of other offshore enabling laws, led to growth of interest in Belize as a low-tax jurisdiction.
From 1990 to 1997 roughly 3,000 offshore companies were registered in Belize. Growth then accelerated: by March 2000, the total number of offshore companies reached 14,000, and by 2003 had again surged significantly.
Offshore jurisdiction ratings issued by Swiss company Guaranty Trust Ltd put Belize at the head of its list, judged according to a variety of criteria including banking secrecy, legal system, communications and tax regime.
In addition to an IBC law, Belize has legislation in place for Ship Registration, Trusts, Offshore Banking, Online Gaming, Limited Life Companies, Limited Liability Partnerships, Mutual Funds, International Insurance, Protected Cell Companies, and a Financial Services Commission to regulate and monitor the industry.
Belize's banking sector (including offshore banking) is regulated by the Central Bank of Belize, while the non-banking sector falls within the jurisdiction of the International Financial Services Commission (IFSC) established in 1999. Membership of the IFSC includes representation from both the private and public sectors. The IFSC's mandate includes:
- promoting and developing Belize as a center for international financial services;
- protecting and enhancing the reputation of Belize as an offshore financial center;
- providing appropriate supervision and regulation of international financial services,
- formulating policies and providing advice and assistance to the government on the regulation of such services;
- collecting, storing and disseminating reliable and timely information to interested parties on changes and new trends in these services.
The Commission relies on self-regulation, meaning that while government sets overall standards, it expects much of the actual work in terms of monitoring and compliance to be done by the industry itself.
The Commission has issued licensing regulations to licence all international financial services providers. The licensing process is designed to ensure that only 'fit and proper persons' are allowed to provide, carry on or transact international financial services in or from within Belize. At the time of writing, the application fee is USD2,500 while the annual licence fee is USD5,000. In addition, the Commission is developing a statutory Code of Conduct for international financial services providers, to ensure compliance with internationally-accepted best practices by all services providers.
This section of the site describes the most important types of offshore business activity carried out from Belize.