Belize: Offshore Business Sectors
In the early 1990s, new 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 rapidly: by March 2000, the total number of offshore companies reached 14,000, since when it has continued to surge.
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 under the jurisdiction of the International Financial Services Commission (IFSC). Membership of the IFSC includes representation from both the private and public sectors, and its mandate includes:
- promoting and developing Belize as a centre for international financial services
- protecting and enhancing the reputation of Belize as an offshore financial centre
- 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 IFSC relies on self-regulation, meaning that while the government sets overall standards, it expects the industry to do much of the actual monitoring and compliance itself.
The IFSC 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 US$500 while the annual licence fee is US$2,500. In addition, the IFSC 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.