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Belize Offshore Opportunities - Frequently Asked Questions



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Will My Money Be Safe Overseas?

This is not an easy question to answer, because overseas includes all sorts of jurisdictions.  As somebody interested in moving money overseas, you want to do due diligence and explore the various possibilities.

Factors to consider include:


What Is The Best Country for Offshore Investment?
Belize!  (What did you expect?)

But honestly, it depends on your personal situation (everything from current location, language spoken, financial objectives, etc.)

The best strategy is to consider the factors laid out above and the explore the possibilities in-depth, which means doing your own online research and then speaking to experts on the ground (i.e., Belize attorneys) in the countries you are considering.


What Are My Different Options For Offshore Investment?

Offshore companies tend to have many different names even when they differ very little or not at all.  The most common name in Belize is: international business company (IBC).  Others include: tax-exempt companies, special license companies, limited liability companies, offshore corporations, BVI Business companies, etc.  Regardless, the primary objective is accruing tax benefits allowed by the law.  

You might also want to explore Belize Offshore Trusts and Belize Offshore Foundations, which are substantially different offshore investment vehicles.

Please click here for a comprehensive list of Belize offshore investment options.


How Do I Know Which Offshore Vehicle Is Best For Me?

Begin by conducting basic research for yourself.  You can learn a great deal by going online and researching various offshore opportunities (and jurisdictions).  

When you think you have a good idea of the options and how they fit with your goals, that’s the time to call somebody with more expertise in the matter, to ensure all the particular angles (legal, financial, and yes, even cultural) are being covered.  

Do yourself a favor and make sure of two things in particular: 1) that whoever you speak to is based in the jurisdiction you’re exploring; 2) and that person or firm has the legal background to ensure success.

What Is A Tax Haven?

Short answer: Belize!

Long answer: It’s relative.  Tax havens (also called fiscal havens or offshore financial centres) refer to jurisdictions that offer tax incentives for your money.  The term tax haven doesn’t have a specific legal meaning, but is generally understood as a place where people move their money to avoid taxation or for other reasons.  Ireland and its low corporate tax rate might seem like a tax haven to Americans paying more than a 30% rate.  On the other hand, modern day America might seem like a tax haven by historical standards.

Long answer #2: Belize!  Belize is a tax haven relatively or objectively speaking.  A foreign individual can register an international business company in Belize (or create another kind of offshore corporation in Belize) and avoid taxation altogether.  Besides this primary characteristic, Belize is a tax haven in that it has laws, regulations, and a history protecting the country’s tax haven status.  These include simple and rapid offshore company incorporation, confidentiality laws preventing financial reporting to the government, secrecy provisions in the Belize banking and corporate sectors, a well-developed financial industry, a lack of foreign exchange controls, and the absence of information-sharing agreements with foreign governments or institutions.

All of which add up to make Belize one of the best tax havens in the world.


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What Purpose Do Offshore Companies Serve?

Belize offshore companies - most common among them international business companies (IBCs) - serve two primary purposes: 1) Tax reduction, deferral, or avoidance; and 2) Asset protection.  

Both reasons complement each other, and often a Belize international business company can benefit from both.

Advantages of a Belize offshore company include the following:


Is It Legal To Own An Offshore International Business Company Or Offshore Bank Account?

Yes.

Owning, operating, and holding shares in a Belize offshore international business company (IBC) or other offshore corporation, directly or indirectly, is not substantially different than doing the same with a domestic company, and therefore perfectly legal.  The same is true for associated Belize offshore bank accounts.

However, be forewarned, it is also legal for your home country to discriminate against you through taxes, fees, and penalties if you move your money offshore.  It’s always a good idea to see if your country of residence has a blacklist against offshore jurisdictions and/or discriminating rules against offshore transactions.  There are often legal ways around these measures, but first you need to know what they are.

One final note: Belize offshore IBCs are absolutely legal, yes.  But in the same way that you’d want to consult a reputable lawyer to establish a domestic company in your home jurisdiction, you want to consult a Belize lawyer in establishing an offshore home for your money.


What Do So-Called Tax Havens Get Out Of It?

The bottom line is revenue.  For a small country like Belize, the low fees for registering an international business company (IBC) - only in the hundreds of dollars - add up.  

The thousands of annual registration fees and maintenance fees (also very low) turn into a nice source of revenue for the Belize government.  And most IBCs are run from overseas, so they do not burden the social or physical infrastructure of the country at all.  

Additional revenue flows to the registered agents, company managers, and Belize IBC administrators in the Belize offshore sector, employees who are also consumers and pour the money back into the Belizean economy.  The offshore services industry spurs demand for quality telecommunications, modern office space and equipment, and business software - you could call them First World business necessities.  And those things have been brought to Belize due in part to the offshore sector.


What Law Makes Belize IBCs Tax-Exempt?

The Belize International Business Companies Act, Article 130, states that, "all income of a company incorporated under [the law], all dividends or other distributions paid by the company to persons who are not resident in Belize; all interest, rent, royalties, compensations and other amounts paid by the company to persons who are not persons resident in Belize; and capital gains realised with respect to any shares, debt obligations or other securities of a company incorporated under this Act by persons who are not persons resident in Belize, are exempt from all provisions of the Income and Business Tax Act."

The Belize International Business Companies Act also makes all transfers of property to or by the offshore company tax-exempt, and makes any transactions in respect to the shares, securities, debt obligations of the Belize international business company tax-exempt as well.


Are Belize Offshore Companies Required To Keep Financial Records?

No.

Belize international business companies (IBCs) and other types of Belize offshore companies are not required to file financial records with the government, so company owners can choose to keep or not keep them.

Of course, accurate financial records are always a good idea, especially when the Belize IBC has more than one owner.


Are Offshore Companies Losing Popularity or Legality?

No and no.

There are currently millions of IBCs in operation worldwide.  Many thousands of new offshore companies are being incorporated on a daily basis, including by virtually every major multi-national corporation.  The reality is that offshore companies have become more popular and more vital to the workings of business both big and small than ever before.

As in Belize, offshore companies are as legally protected as they’ve ever been, and each year that goes by is one that further cements the place of IBCs and the offshore sector into the workings of the international economy.  

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I Want to Open an Offshore Bank Account in Belize - What Should I Know?

Belize offers many types of cost-effective, tax-exempt offshore bank accounts. 

Individuals interested in international banking in Belize should begin by exploring two main options: an individual offshore bank account and a corporate offshore bank account.

A number of benefits are available to individuals who open a corporate offshore bank account in Belize.  You do not need to conduct any business activities in Belize to open an offshore bank account.  You would need to setup a company of course for a corporate bank account, but that company need not engage in any business here as a prerequisite to open the account.

Another advantage is that opening a corporate offshore bank account in Belize will enable you to move your money (some might say hide your money) in a legal way.  You will also receive the confidentiality that comes along with it.  Not only will you be able to avoid taxation, but offshore account confidentiality makes it more difficult for con artists and the like to notice and then target your money.

And yet another advantage: with a corporate offshore bank account, you and your money are legally separate.  So any personal liability (from a divorce settlement, to bankruptcy proceedings, to a frivolous lawsuit) will not affect the bank account of your IBC, which will be legally shielded. Your IBC will have built-in legal asset protection and any money in the corresponding corporate bank account will take advantage of this structure. 

And lastly, transferring shares of your IBC to future inheritors is a great way to lessen inheritance tax responsibilities.

Before you open any kind of Belize offshore bank account, you'll want to be sure to consult with a Belize attorney.


How Do I Open up a Bank Account in Belize?

Belize has two separate banking regimes. The first includes domestic banks, which transact in the Belizean currency (Belize dollars), and the second includes international banks.  International banks deal with foreign currencies, typically United States dollars, but many international banks in Belize offer accounts in Canadian dollars, pound sterling, Japanese yen, and the euro.

Part of the application for either an international account or for a domestic Belize dollar account involves completion of due diligence documents by the bank. These documents typically consist of copies of identification documents (including passports), a driver’s license, documents that can verify residence (which typically are utility bills, or perhaps, again, a driver’s license or government ID of some sort), and also letters of reference. Different banks have different due diligence requirements.  Some are more extensive than others, but typically banks request personal character references from a professional such as an attorney, a doctor, or an accountant to vouch for the character of the applicant.  They also request bank references, which will detail how long the applicant has had a relationship with a particular current bank as well as whether bank accounts are in good standing. In addition to these requirements, a significant amount of application documents need to be completed and submitted to the bank.

Opening a bank account in Belize is more involved than typical application processes in North American or Europe.  The regulations for banking institutions in this country are different. The banks in Belize are governed by the Central Bank of Belize, an institution similar to the Federal Reserve of the United States. The reason that there is more regulation here is to protect the Belizean banks, and to protect Belize as a sound jurisdiction for banking.  Over the years, there have been problems with money laundering, terrorist financing, and drug money being run through various banks globally. Therefore, the Central Bank of Belize and the banks in Belize go through great lengths to avoid being involved in anything that would hurt the country's ability to have a sound banking regime with well-respected banking institutions.

Our Belize law firm assists our clients with bank account applications. We typically act as liaisons between the applicant and the bank and work to consolidate the documents used in due diligence, submit those documents to the bank, and push for the bank to process the applications in as efficient a manner as possible.


How Do I Choose Between Banks in Belize?

The banking sector in Belize is reputable and extensive.  It can be tricky to find the right bank for you.  A few factors include:

  • Your business and/or individual goals
  • The proposed activities you or your company will be undertaking
  • Opening deposit and minimum balance requirements (some of which can be quite large)
  • Your nationality and current residence.  Banks often have policies that restrict access to their services for certain people, and these policies can change

At Wrobel & Co., Attorneys at Law, we have experience linking clients with the right bank account at the right bank.  Our Belize lawyers first work with you to understand your personal objectives and then link you with the best option for you.  We welcome you to contact us today.


Are the Banks in Belize Safe?

The banks in Belize are very safe.  There is no history of bank failures in the country, and there has been no history of bank runs as have happened in South America and Europe during the years.

The Central Bank of Belize has proven a good regulator of financial institutions in Belize and there has been no indication of risk for overseas investors taking advantage of the Belize offshore sector, opening Belize offshore bank accounts, or creating Belize offshore companies.

For international banks in Belize, the capital requirements are high as compared to other jurisdictions where financial institutions are not forced to keep as large degree an amount of reserves. The Central Bank of Belize website that provides more particular information as to the extent of capital reserves and how the financial institutions are governed and regulated in Belize.  

Wrobel & Co. uses Belize dollars to finance our operations, and we use banks in Belize without trouble and restful minds.


What Activities Can a Belize Commercial Bank Account Support?

Belize offshore commercial bank accounts are ideal for:

  • Foreign currency exchange trading (FOREX)
  • Cash management, payables/receivables, payroll solutions
  • Point of sale solutions, e-commerce, merchant programmes
  • International trade, including global banking services, letters of credit, and cross-border guarantees
  • Financing, loans, and similar services
  • Risk management and energy price management

And the list goes on. Our Belize attorneys are happy to discuss your business and how it could benefit from a Belize offshore commercial bank account.  Contact us today.


Can I Open An Offshore Bank Account in Belize Even If I’m Not A Resident?

Of course.  

To open an individual Belize currency bank account, you simply need a passport, mailing address, and reference letter.  Opening an individual U.S. currency bank account has similar requirements.  And you can also open an corporate account by establishing a Belize international business company.

Can Other Governments Investigate My Offshore Activities In Belize?

Many Western governments such as the United States, Canada, and those within the European Union have undertaken greater efforts during the past few years to find and tax offshore money.  If you’re engaged in non-criminal acts, you have nothing to worry about.  

Belize strenuously refuses to sign reciprocal agreements such as Tax Information Exchange Agreements, Double Taxation Agreements, and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act in the United States.  You can rest assured that your offshore activities in Belize will be confidential and private.

(If you are engaged in criminal activities such as money laundering, the case is different.  Stop reading this and go find yourself a criminal lawyer.)  

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What is the Business Culture in Belize?

Belize is a small country with a relatively small market so there tends to be more monopolies in this country, which produce fewer choices for consumers.  In general, business in Belize tends to be import-driven. The country does not have a lot of manufacturing so all motor vehicles are imported. The majority of the building construction supplies are imported. And so on. Belize produces a lot of food these days, such as chicken, rice, and fruits, but by and large, the economy is very much import-driven.

Doing business here in Belize tends to be more personal: one on one. If you were to open a business in Belize, you would certainly know your competitors. You would perhaps know your customers well. There are no huge multi-national companies operating in Belize. No impersonal corporations. Business tends to be done at a lower level, a more personal level.

The best advice our Belize offshore attorneys for anyone contemplating doing business in Belize is to do your due diligence. Ask around and don’t jump into things. It’s very hard to keep secret a negative reputation in the country because it is so small.  So investigate the market and talk to as many people as possible before you jump into a business relationship with one person. The more you hear, the better you’ll find out if you are dealing with reputable people, or if they have a reputation to be less than honest.


What is Belize’s Economic System Like? 

The economy in Belize is capitalist with very little standing in way of the free market.  Basically, anything goes.  (Many of Belize's neighbors have more socialist economies.)

Many of the major industries in Belize are still controlled to some extent by monopolies. In the past, industries such as soft drinks and beer were more monopolistic, but during the last few years, more and more products have added a lot of competition, which is good for the economy.

As an American, Canadian, or European with great ideas, you can do well here. This is a market well acquainted with the United States because of television. People on the ground here know what is available outside the country even though it might not be available here. There are a lot of businesses or business ideas that could be implemented here that would be successful. With the right amount of capital and the right ideas, doing the proper amount of due diligence to ensure that you are dealing with reputable people, there are business opportunities in Belize and once you're here, the economic environment is extremely "hands off" and corporate friendly.  The government is not going to get involved as much as it would in other countries.  Belize is a great place to do business.  Our Belize offshore lawyers want to help get you started.


Are There Escrow Companies in Belize?

No.

There are no independent escrow services available in Belize.  Typically an attorney, bank, or real estate broker will offer monetary and documentary escrow services for real estate transactions.  The costs vary, so be sure to inquire. Learn more at our Real Estate FAQ page.


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If you have any additional questions or would like to explore the Belize offshore sector with a Belize lawyer, please contact us today



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