Vanuatu: Country and Foreign Investment
Vanuatu offers a politically stable environment with no direct taxes or exchange controls. Indirect taxes and fees are minimal. The legislative environment in Vanuatu is directed toward the offshore business market and includes good confidentiality provisions. Support for the offshore business sector was strengthened in 1993 with the passage of the International Companies Act, which made Vanuatu an attractive and competitive financial centre. An international company can normally be set up in a day.
Foreigners may conduct business in Vanuatu, provided they do so through a "local" company (see Forms of Company).
Businesses conducted in Vanuatu must obtain a Business Licence. Every business licence is issued annually and may be subject to certain conditions. The licence is transferable and is subject to an annual fee which ranges from VT20,000 to VT1m. Other businesses in the financial and monetary institutions including insurance companies and agents are charged on the basis of 2% of estimated turnover.
The Official Secrets Act and the various companies acts assure the secrecy of information relating to offshore entities. Because Vanuatu has no income tax and there are no double taxation treaties there is no legislation for the exchange of information. Internal legislation, including the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act and the Serious Offences Act are, however, directed to the prevention of money laundering activities within the jurisdiction. There is also a Financial Information Unit forming part of the Egmont Group.
In 1980 all freehold titles were cancelled and replaced with leasehold titles. The terms of the leasehold vary depending on the location and land use. There is an annual land lease charge. Other municipal charges may also apply. These charges have historically been low. There is a review of the charges every five years. Fifty year leases (beginning in July 1980) are standard in the major urban areas such as Port Vila and Santo. In rural areas leases range from 30 to 70 years.