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Offshore Business in Belize: Benefits and Key Features

Something like two decades ago, the allure of offshore business ventures in Belize and similar tax havens was unmistakable. Firms incorporated within these advantageous jurisdictions benefited from the absence of fiscal duties, which allowed them to shield their earnings from tax scrutiny with confidence. A company like this could carry out unfettered cross-border commercial activities, unencumbered by any economic obligations to the jurisdiction of registration, save for inclusion in the official registry.

Offshore Business in Belize

However, the onset of deoffshorization brought significant changes with it. Jurisdictions known for their tax advantages are now under intense scrutiny from international regulators and national tax agencies, driven by concerns over unmonitored financial streams. These have facilitated not only aggressive tax reduction strategies but also money laundering and, in some cases, the funding of terrorist activities. Consequently, the simple objective of running a business through offshore entities to pay as little in taxes as possible has lost the significance it used to have.

Against this changing backdrop, the appeal of offshore business operations in Belize might seem to be waning. Attributes that were once touted as prime benefits, namely, Belize’s status as a leading tax haven, are now often seen as drawbacks. The prospect of running your business amidst rigorous financial regulation may seem impractical. Yet, is this view justified? Is it fair to regard Belize as a tax haven past its prime? The answer is a definitive no.

Belize: the jurisdiction’s advantages for doing business

Whether you can benefit from the above advantages strongly depends on various factors, namely, your business form as outlined in the Belize Companies Act, 2022, the breadth of its business activities, the entity’s ownership structure, tax residency jurisdictions of its founders, as well as the commercial ties it has with Belizean natural and legal persons, among numerous other factors. Nonetheless, it is not correct to state that the concept of offshore business, with its international dimensions, is outdated. 

Belize is a clear illustration of this, and here’s why:

  • Swift Company Registration: In Belize, the company registration process is expedited, typically completed within 4 to 5 working days with a full set of apostilled documents for opening a corporate bank account. Without these documents, any standard registration takes just 2 to 3 days.
  • Reasonable Annual Fees: The annual fees for most companies in Belize are quite modest, at USD 250. In certain cases, the fee is even lower, at USD 150. For legal entities with a capital over USD 50,000 and all shares issued at nominal value, the fee is set at USD 1,000. This fee structure is more cost-effective compared to the Bahamas and the BVI, where annual fees are USD 400 and USD 500, respectively. With this in mind, Belize gives you every opportunity to set up an offshore business without spending too much on it.
  • Complete Legal Autonomy: Offshore companies in Belize are recognized as fully-fledged legal entities, with all the corresponding rights and privileges.
  • Top Confidentiality: In the current climate of deoffshorization, Belize has recalibrated its corporate legislation to align with international regulatory demands while preserving a satisfactory level of confidentiality. Details of company beneficiaries, directors, and shareholders are not entered into the public register and are accessible solely to the registered agent. Corporate records are maintained privately, with third parties only able to access information from the Memorandum and Articles of Association, which do not disclose any personal data of the company’s personnel.
  • Selective International Cooperation: Belize has ratified international agreements related to tax cooperation, double taxation avoidance, and the automatic exchange of information (AEOI). However, the information exchange process is deliberately complex. Requesting parties must substantiate that the corresponding individual or company in Belize has any taxable assets before any information is shared, and the scope of the information exchanged is strictly limited to what is requested. 
  • Efficient Legal Protection: Belizean companies enjoy strong legal protection in court. Before any assets located within Belize can be transferred or seized at the request of another country, a violation of the law must be established. Admittedly, this often proves a challenge as Belizean courts are known to frequently rule in favor of local businesses.
  • Unrestricted Authorized Capital: There are no limits on the amount of authorized capital in Belize. Local companies may be set up with any specified sum in whatever currency.
  • Adaptable Corporate Structure: By law, an offshore company in Belize must have at least one shareholder and one director, who may be the same person. Belizean citizenship is not a requirement, and corporate directors are permitted. There is no obligation to conduct shareholder or director meetings within Belize, and a proxy vote is allowed.
  • Diverse Share Types: An offshore company in Belize enjoys virtually unrestricted options for issuing securities (including shares with no nominal value). The sole exception is bearer shares, which commercial companies in Belize have no right to issue due to anti-money laundering measures.
  • Streamlined Management and Storage of Corporate Documentation. There are no specific requirements here (refer to the Accounting Act, 2020 version). Most matters of this kind are resolved independently by companies in Belize. Accounting records must be maintained, but there are no stipulations regarding storage conditions (whether in the company’s office, anywhere in Belize, or abroad). The only requirement refers to the registered agent, who must be aware of where these corporate documents actually are.
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Doing business in Belize: here’s how

An offshore company is a powerful instrument for addressing a wide array of business challenges. In Belize, the local business environment is favorable enough and a well-launched venture is likely to thrive. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize certain nuances when you establish an offshore company in Belize, as they may significantly influence your business operations. While it might be tempting to view these nuances as drawbacks, such an interpretation would be a misjudgment.

The factors highlighted below do not render the business any less advantageous or lawful. Yet, they do have an impact on the business itself as well as several interconnected domains, including taxation, access to banking and financial services, and prospective real estate ownership. Should you have any questions as to running an offshore business in Belize, a personalized consultation with International Wealth experts is a great idea to discuss them.

This is what you should always keep in mind:

  •  Restrictions on Local Transactions: Offshore companies in Belize are not allowed to do business with local residents, regardless of whether they are individuals or legal entities. A single transaction may change your company’s offshore status, subjecting it to local taxation as if it were a domestic entity. However, since offshore entities in Belize are typically established for international trade, asset protection, and financial security, these restrictions are unlikely to significantly impact your operations.
  • Real Estate Ownership: Offshore companies are not permitted to own property in Belize. If such a purchase is made, the company becomes a tax resident, which is a considerable limitation. Still, lawful ways to navigate this restriction do exist.
  • Licensing Requirements: For businesses that render banking or insurance services, obtaining the required licenses is a must. This is standard practice across many jurisdictions and should not be viewed as a disadvantage.
  • Economic Development: Belize’s economy is not as developed as those of Singapore or Hong Kong, ranking 160th in GDP according to the IMF as of April 2024. While this may seem modest, Belize still offers unique offshore advantages that are not diminished by its GDP ranking. This is especially evident if we compare it to other offshore jurisdictions like Curaçao (164th), Seychelles (168th), Antigua and Barbuda (170th), San Marino (171st), BVI (173rd), and Vanuatu (176th) that rank even lower. The famous offshore appeal is not about this. If you plan to target the Belizean market, the buying power of the local population is indeed an important consideration. However, this factor becomes largely inconsequential if your business focuses on cross-border transactions.
  • Perception as an Offshore Territory: Despite being regarded as an offshore territory by many developed nations, Belize maintains a positive international reputation, not being listed on any FATF black or gray lists. Besides, challenges arising from the above perception are typically resolvable.
  • Banking Challenges: While difficulties with banking services do exist, they are not insurmountable. True, reputable banks may be hesitant to establish accounts for offshore entities, but financial institutions are generally cooperative with businesses that demonstrate real economic presence in Belize. Challenges may arise in the absence thereof. At International Wealth, our expertise lies in overcoming such hurdles, and we offer personalized consultations to make the process of establishing a bank account overseas as easy and fast as possible.
  • Corporate Payment Challenges: With transparent business operations, clear beneficial ownership, and well-maintained accounting records, you will successfully avoid most corporate payment issues.

Registering your offshore company in Belize with International Wealth

Work with International Wealth experts, and we’ll make sure your project goes smoothly, from starting your company to opening a corporate bank account for it. 

Offshore business registration in Belize: basic info about the jurisdiction

  • Geographic Location: Central America.
  • Accepted Currencies: USD and BZD).
  • Official Language: English.
  • Company Setup: Options for registering a new offshore company or purchasing a pre-existing one are available.
  • Registry Requirements: The Belize company registry must contain director and shareholder details, foundational documents, meeting resolutions, and accounting/financial records.
  • Directorship: At least one director is required, with no residency obligations, and board meetings are not compulsory.
  • Secretary: A secretary must be appointed who is a natural person.
  • Shareholders: A minimum of one shareholder is needed, with no residency stipulations, and holding general meetings is not obligatory.
  • Beneficiary Privacy: Beneficiary data remains confidential.
  • Capital Requirements: There are no specific requirements as to the company’s authorized capital.

Key differences between Belize business entities:

FeatureCompany with Physical Presence in BelizeOffshore Company Incorporated in Belize with No Physical Presence
Tax ResidencyRequiredNot required (if tax residency is established elsewhere)
Corporate Tax ObligationApplicableExempt (for business tax only, unless income is sourced within Belize)
Permission to Operate LocallyGrantedNot permitted
Substance RequirementMandatory for FSC license holdersNot required (unless holding an FSC license)
Currency ControlAuthorization neededNot applicable
DirectorshipMinimum of two directors, one must be a Belize residentJust one director needed, without a residency requirement
Annual MeetingsMandatoryOptional
Annual Reporting Comprehensive return filingInformational return only
Audit RequirementMandatoryWaived if revenue is below USD 6 million

Is starting an offshore business in Belize still a good idea even with the world trying to cut down on tax havens? Yes, as things stand in 2024, it looks like a smart move and it is likely to stay that way for a while. Belize has indeed set up an efficient system that helps to launch and successfully expand various businesses.

Even though the world is currently doing its best to move away from tax-free jurisdictions, it’s still important to think things through when you’re planning your business. Registering an offshore company in Belize on your own may be pretty tough. That’s why we’re here to help. If you’ve got questions or need some guidance, just reach out to International Wealth for an in-person consultation and we’ll talk these things over with you.

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