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  • Setting priorities

    Setting Priorities for Economic Growth

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    The countries in Central America and the Caribbean may be at different stages of economic development however they all have one top priority in common: building physical infrastructure including roads, bridges, airports and seaports as well as technological infrastructure such as broadband communications. If infrastructure falls behind with productive capacity bottlenecks will invariably occur thereby  hindering overall progress in the region.

    Some infrastructure projects are so large that they require financing that is beyond the financing capacity of the domestic banks. Traditionally, the large multinational banks have provided the capital for these projects, however these entities have become increasingly risk averse, and in some instances are now experiencing balance sheet constraints given their obligations under Basel III and other regulations. Others are actually retreating from Central America by selling subsidiaries.

    “There needs to be a deepening of the capital markets of the region to allow for the mobilization of capital so that domestic banks and investors can take on the risk of transforming these economies,” says Lyndon Guiseppi, CEO and Director at BCB Holdings Ltd. “We also need support from public-private partnerships (PPP) and private finance initiatives (PFI) as well as regional developmental agencies such as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and Inter-American Development Bank.”

    PPP/PFI is a form of procurement where the public sector procures services over a long period of time. However, the risk of ownership and the efficient operation of the project is left in the hand of a private sector supplier.

    Two other urgent priorities need to be addressed. One is economic diversification away from agriculture and commodities, which have fallen in price recently. The other is income inequality. In most of the jurisdictions the middle class is not robust, and without their purchasing power, the region’s economies will continue to lag their more developed counterparts. Multilateral institutions including the Inter-American Development Bank have programs and policies in place, however these are insufficient to address these needs. Government agencies also need to directly intervene to create educational opportunities at all levels so that  individuals who are outside the formal economy can develop marketable skills and participate directly in these transformational initatives.

    “There’s a huge unbanked sector that is outside of the formal economy,” says Guiseppi. “Not enough is being done to mobilize those consumers, and I believe domestic banks have a role to play in this area which is commonly called bancarisation.”

    Against this backdrop, BBIL is both committed to the region and helping its customers build their businesses as they transition to a more viable economic model.

    Even though BBIL is based in Belize most of its customers are non-Belizeans. BBIL provides basic banking products and services as well as attractive financial packages for projects in Belize and throughout Central America and the Caribbean. Given that the information customers need to make intelligent decisions about investing in the region is not usually readily available in the public domain BBIL is strategically positioned to share with them the wealth of market intelligence which we have gathered over many years of doing business across the region.

    “There are project sponsors who are looking for capital, and we have daily contact with investors who have the capital to invest,” says Guiseppi. “So to the extent that interests may collide, we are in a position to put these parties together.”

    BBIL will continue to monitor economic trends so that it can respond to customer needs in a timely manner. Moreover, BBIL stands ready to support multilateral and government initiatives to tackle priorities that will move Central America and the Caribbean to the next level of development.

    On March 3, 2015
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    Wired Up

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    Companies need to make sure their funds are in the right place at the right time, and all wire payments are made on time. Lizanni Cuellar, Operations Manager at Belize Bank International Ltd. (BBIL), explains how companies can use wire transfers to support their cash management strategy.

    Wire transfers are a quicker and more efficient payment method than using a banker’s draft, also known as a cashier’s check. A banker’s draft must be mailed, so it could take days or weeks (depending on the type of mail used) for the payment to reach customers in another country.  There is always a risk that the payment could be lost in the mail.  In contrast, a wire transfer can take two or three days, depending on how many intermediary banks it has to go through, but in many cases it is for same-day delivery.

    “Most corporate customers at BBIL prefer wire transfers,” says Cuellar.  “It’s really the quickest, safest and most efficient form of payment for them.”

    Customers may apply for a wire transfer on BBIL’s online platform. Within an hour or two, the application is filtered to the foreign exchange department where the transfer is initiated.  The cutoff time for wires is 2:00 pm.  All applications received after 2:00 pm are processed the following business day.

    BBIL executes wire transfers over SWIFT’s secure payments network.  The originator’s name and address as well as the beneficiary’s details go along with the payment.  Customers may also include remittance information, such as invoice numbers or account references for straight-through processing.

    Importantly, BBIL has security measures in place to protect its customers from fraud. Almost all wire transfers are initiated online using a security token. The approval and verification process depends on the value of the payment.  BBIL verbally confirms wire transfers over $50,000 with the customer.

    Customers may cancel wire transfers in writing. If the cancellation request is received after the wire has been sent, then BBIL can work with its correspondent bank to recall it.

    An outgoing wire transfer costs $75, and the fee for receiving a wire transfer is $20.  “Wire transfers may cost more than banker’s drafts, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages,” says Cuellar. “We encourage our corporate customers to come talk to us about how they can benefit from this form of payment.”

    On February 17, 2015
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    Transforming Belize’s Economy

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    Public-private sector dialogue and partnerships are setting the stage for innovation and expansion in Belize, especially for small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Belize Bank International talked to Ydahlia Metzgen, to gain insight into the challenges businesses face and how the banking sector can help address them. Dr. Metzgen is non-executive director of BCB Holdings Ltd., a professor at Galen University and a proprietor of Calico Jack’s Resort and Zip Line.

    Access to finance is a significant issue for Belize businesses today. To some extent, Belize is still a cash economy. Most companies will not accept payment by check. Credit cards are a relatively new offering, and many companies and individuals still do not have them. Bank lending is the dominant source of financing, but it is difficult to obtain a loan without collateral, usually in the form of land. There is no equity market, and although some businesses issue bonds, debt financing is not the norm. Without financing, young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and willing to take risk cannot execute their plans.

    The education system is currently making a transition to accommodate economic expansion. In the last 15 years, standardized test scores have shown declines in key competencies required by businesses to compete in today’s global environment. That being said, the government is devoting resources to programs that will address this issue. According to the CIA World Factbook, on average Belize invests about 7% of GDP on education, ranking relatively high compared to education spending in other countries around the world.

    “Studies and experience show a link between economic growth and education. The Government of Belize has invested heavily in education during the last several years. However, the outcomes in terms of access and quality have not been as envisaged and our country continues to face major challenges. The recent focus on assessing the effectiveness of government spending on traditional education as well as on adult training opportunities in line with business needs are positive steps,” says Metzgen. “We may have lost a generation, and many of these Belizeans need access to training in their adult years.”

    Belize’s small population and internal market are problematic from an entrepreneurial perspective. It is difficult to achieve economies of scale (the ability to capture cost savings and increase profitability as production expands) and economies of scope (the ability to diversify production). Successful companies serve not just the domestic market but export markets as well.

    A Joint Solution

    Recently, the Government of Belize has taken steps to partner formally with private sector stakeholders to support economic expansion. The Economic Development Council (EDC), founded in 2011, serves as a forum for dialogue between the public and private sectors. At an annual Business Forum, policymakers and business leaders discuss the issues facing the economy and develop proposals for addressing them. Prime Minister Dean Barrow and relevant cabinet ministers attended the last Business Forum held in July 2014.

    The Prime Minister has appointed a private-sector liaison officer to strengthen the public-private partnership and serve as the Executive Director of the Economic Development Council. In addition, the Office of Public-Private Sector Dialogue is the Secretariat for the Economic Development Council. The technical unit remains resident in the Office of the Prime Minister.

    “There appears to be a commitment to a durable, lasting and systematic dialogue, and in my view this is a big plus,” says Metzgen. “Considering our resource constraints, the private sector is challenged to pool resources and together with the government, establish priorities and help set expectations in terms of what is feasible.”

    Moreover, the government has partnered with the United Nations Development Program to launch the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy, a multi-year plan to develop the economy by 2030. The initial effort from 2014 to 2017 will focus on identifying the constraints to economic growth and budgeting to improve the management of public resources.

    Fostering Entrepreneurship

    In Belize there appears to be a bias toward public sector employment because of the relatively attractive benefits that government provides—systematic salary increases, pensions as well as job security. Many private sector companies cannot provide such benefits. However, initiatives are underway to turn around this preference and help foster an interest in the private sector. For example, the main associations in the tourism sector— Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) and the Belize Hotel Association (BHA) support scholarship and training programs to help individuals develop skills to work in tourism and encourage entrepreneurship. In addition, Belize’ Bank Ltd.’s, Belize Apprentice Program provides a platform for encouraging young entrepreneurs. Successful applicants participate in a competition where they are challenged in sales, marketing and creativity.

    The positive side of operating in a small country like Belize is that good ideas can go far quickly and have a material impact on outcomes. Belize is rich in natural resources. It has beautiful beaches, the second largest barrier reef in the world as well as a rainforest that is still relatively intact. Together with the Mayan temples, Belize is an attractive tourism destination. There is an opportunity to harness these assets for business and economic development while respecting the environment.

    “Currently we focus on traditional tourism, but with some creativity, there’s some room to deepen and expand that market,” says Metzgen. “For example, the rainforest could be leveraged to teach people about the value of ecology and biodiversity”

    To foster entrepreneurship, the banking sector could partner with the government to build an infrastructure for lending, she points out. Information systems, property registries and credit bureaus need to be developed so that banks have sufficient information on borrowers to lend with confidence. Ultimately, providing access to financing and enhancing human capital would transform the economy.

    On January 20, 2015
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    Drivers of Offshore Banking

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    Offshore Banking Supports Tax Planning Business Strategies

    Is your company interested in tax planning solutions that maximize income for the purposes of reinvestment into its business or increase returns to shareholders?  Then Belize may offer several key components to this strategy thereby allowing your company to accomplish such objective including offering tax free international business companies and offshore free zones.

    Some companies have multiple divisions, each responsible for their own profits and return on invested capital. When the divisions transact business amongst themselves, they charge a transfer price to determine the cost of such service. For example, a foreign based parent company could incorporate a subsidiary in Belize to hold intellectual property to which it pays royalties and licensing fees for the use of the intellectual property.  In these cases an international business company incorporated in Belize offers the ideal solution for holding the intellectual property as their income is exempt from taxes in Belize. This income can then be incorporated to the development of the group or to increase shareholders’ return on equity. In addition to international business companies, Belize also offers various other products to assist in your tax planning strategies, such as Limited Liability Companies, Limited Duration Companies, Foundations, Limited Partnerships, International Trusts, etc.

    That leads us to our second investment strategy: setting up a subsidiary or investment vehicle in a free zone. Belize offers the possibility of doing business either in Commercial Free Zones (CFZ) and/or Export Processing Zones (EPZ) in which companies can manufacture and conduct other business activities including warehousing, packaging and distribution in close proximity to the NAFTA countries. The tax benefits in these free zones are substantial including:

    CFZ 

    • 10-year tax holiday and then income tax is 2% to 8% from year 11
    • Tax reduction of 2% when local residents are employed
    • Imported and exported products, materials and supplies are exempt from customs duties and quotas

    EPZ

    • Ministry of National Development approved companies are exempt from all taxes including income tax, withholding tax and capital gain tax for 20 years

    In pursuing business opportunities in other jurisdictions it is important for companies to partner with an offshore bank that can support these and other business strategies. They should choose a bank that allows the company to open an account in the name of an IBC, foundation, trust or LLC. The bank should also offer cross-border and global banking services such as foreign currency accounts and CDs denominated in major currencies. In addition, it should provide access to credit and transaction banking products including current accounts as well as competitive financing for commercial construction.

    So why wait? Your company may be able to take advantage of the opportunities to increase income and further its development. Call us because Belize Bank International is here to help with your banking needs.

     

    The information contained in this document is  for information purposes only and not for the purposes of providing legal advice.  You must not rely on the information in this document as an alternative to legal advice from your attorney or other professional legal services provider.   If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult your attorney or other professional legal services provider. 

     

    On December 15, 2014
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    Making Belize More Competitive

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    Building Competitive Advantage

    In a July 2014 speech in Jamaica, Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said the Caribbean states have a legacy of stagnation – low growth, high debt, low competitiveness, high unemployment. As a result, they were hit hard by the financial crisis, and even now output has not returned to pre-crisis levels.

    She noted that the business climate is less hospitable in the Caribbean than in other dynamic small economies because there is too much red tape, and the labor markets are not effective in creating jobs. She suggested that the public sector needs to play an enabling role in providing full disclosure of fiscal measures offered to investors. A regional approach to transportation infrastructure and the marketing of tourism might work better than each country taking its own initiatives. Finally, she called upon states to resist competing with each other on taxes to attract business.

    “Belize has the opportunity to distinquish itself from its Carribean neighbors based on how it addresses structural issues,” says Filippo Alario, Executive Director at Belize Bank International (BBIL). “While we still have work to do, the measures we’ve taken to address these issues in the past few years are showing positive results.”

    For starters, according to the CIA World Fact Book, the economy is growing. Belize’s real GDP growth rate was about 2.5% in 2013. In 2012 and 2011, it rose by 5.3% and 1.9% respectively, and it averaged nearly 4% in the period 1999-2007. Tourism is the top foreign exchange earner in Belize, followed by exports of marine products, citrus, cane sugar, bananas and garments. The decrease in Belize’s public debt is another positive indicator. In 2013 represented about 75.1% of GDP, down from 84.6% of GDP in 2012.

    Investors considering Belize as an offshore jurisdiction can take advantage of various corporate structures. They can set up as an International Business Company (IBC), a Foundation, a Trust, a Limited Liability Partnership, a Limited Duration Company or an LLC, among others. Moreover, IBC’s offer the flexibility of requiring only one director and one shareholder.

    In October 2013, the Government of Belize enacted several legislative amendments to strengthen its offshore financial services industry and its domestic corporate base. The move will enhance the country’s status with international regulatory bodies and ensure that Belize maintains its position as a premier offshore jurisdiction in the Caribbean. The amendments also streamlined and reinforced recordkeeping for companies and trusts.

    “Our recent legislative amendments have eliminated some of the bureaucracy for companies while bringing regulations and laws into line with international standards,” says Abner Peralta, Company Secretary of Belize Bank International Limited.

    Belize has expanded access to post-secondary education. Several community colleges and junior colleges offer two-year degrees in several subjects. In 2000, provisions were made for the development of the University of Belize, which combines several existing Belize educational facilities. A new private college, Galen University, competes with the government run University of Belize. The University of the West Indies offers courses at its campus in Belize City. In addition, several small offshore medical schools have been established.

    “The expansion of higher education is enabling Belize’s people to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to build a strong labor force,” says Filippo Alario. “We believe that this is key to reducing Belize’s unemployment rate and to increasing productivity for further economic growth.”

    Fiscal incentives have become more transparent through agreements within the Caribbean region and other countries. In addition to having double tax agreements, Tax Information Exchange Agreements are in place with multiple jurisdictions.

    The transportation infrastructure has been built out to support business expansion. Belize has six airports with paved runways and 2870 km of roadways.[i] As a reflection of economic growth, traffic has increased through the Port of Belize City. In 1999 its annual container traffic amounted to 19,677 20-foot equivalent units (Teus). This increased to 40,978 20-foot equivalent units (Teus) in 2013. [ii]

    Finally, Belize’s offshore financial institutions can support individuals and companies alike. They provide easy access to a range of services including corporate/investment accounts, merchant accounts, certificates of deposit, financing, multi-currency accounts while ensuring privacy and security.

    The global economy is starting to rebound after several years of lackluster growth. Belize is positioning itself so it is ready to compete in the years ahead.

     

    The information contained in this document is  for information purposes only and not for the purposes of providing legal advice.  You must not rely on the information in this document as an alternative to legal advice from your attorney or other professional legal services provider.   If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult your attorney or other professional legal services provider. 


    [i] Source: CIA World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bh.html

    [ii] Source: Port of Belize Ltd. Port Statistics. http://portofbelize.com/?page_id=258

    On November 18, 2014
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    Tax Treaty

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    Tax Smart

    When optimizing their tax strategy, individuals should consider a base in Belize.

    Citizens of all countries have a legal – and some might argue moral – obligation to pay tax. Yet they also have the right to plan out a strategy, within the boundaries of the law, that optimizes their payments.

    Some wealthy individuals are subject to high tax rates in their home country. Aruba, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Japan and the U.K. all have top tax rates of more than 50%, and Finland and Ireland are close behind. Individuals also might be subject to double taxation, meaning the same transaction or income source is subject to two or more taxing authorities. One taxing jurisdiction might tax income at its source, while others will tax income based on the residence or nationality of the recipient.

    “One solution is to establish a tax base in Belize, says Mr. Filippo Alario, Eexcutive Director at Belize Bank International. “We have tax treaties in place with several countries, and it may be possible to leverage them in a prudent tax optimization strategy.”

    In addition to having double tax agreements, Belize has Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) in place with multiple jurisdictions. Developed by the OECD Global Forum Working Group on Effective Exchange of Information in 2002, TIEAs are model agreements on the exchange of information on tax matters. There are two models for bilateral agreements.[i]

    Countries that have tax agreements with Belize

    TIEAs: the U.K., Australia, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, Denmark, the Faro Islands, Portugal, Mexico and Poland

    Double tax agreements: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago; the U.K., Sweden and Denmark.

    Tax agreements vary depending on the country, but one might consider these two examples to get a flavor for the nuances.

    Example #1: The agreement with the CARICOM countries covers taxes on income, profits or gains and capital gains. Generally the gains or profits are only taxed in the country in which they are sourced. Dividends, for example, are taxed in the country in which the company that paid them is resident.[ii]

    Example #2: Belize residents subject to tax in Belize are exempt from U.K. tax on dividends paid by U.K. companies.[iii] That being said, dividend receivers who are entitled to a tax credit in Belize may be charged U.K. tax on the net amount of the dividend minus the tax credit at a rate not exceeding 15%. However, this does not apply in some circumstances including when:

    • the dividend receiver controls at least 10% of the voting power in the company that paid the dividend
    • the shares were acquired for bona fide commercial reasons
    • a resident in one jurisdiction has a “permanent establishment” in the other jurisdiction, and the dividend arose from business carried out by the entity

    There is also no tax liability on undistributed profits.

    “Before doing anything, individuals should always seek tax advice from a qualified professional about how they can optimize their tax strategy while remaining compliant with the law,” says Mr. Alario.  “They should ask their adviser about holding their money in a tax-free account at a bank that also offers corporate/investment accounts, merchant accounts, CDs, financing and multi-currency accounts.”

    Finally, they should explore ways to take advantage of other benefits Belize has to offer. Belize is a stable country, so assets are safe and secure. Specifically for business owners, companies can establish a corporate structure in which they only require only one director and one shareholder. Moreover, privacy and confidentiality are embedded in the laws and culture, and registration information is not public.

    Tax optimization makes sense.  So does Belize.

    The information contained in this document is  for information purposes only and not for the purposes of providing legal advice.  You must not rely on the information in this document as an alternative to legal advice from your attorney or other professional legal services provider.   If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult your attorney or other professional legal services provider. 

     


     

    (1) http://www.oecd.org/ctp/harmful/taxinformationexchangeagreementstieas.htm.

    (11) Belize Income Tax (Avoidance of Double Taxation) (Caricom) Act, Chapter 56, Revised Edition 2000.

    (111) HM Revenue & Customs. DT 3530 – DT: Belize: double taxation agreement, Article 6: Dividends.

    On October 15, 2014
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    Foreign Currency Accounts for International Trade

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    Global trade volumes are big and getting bigger. Admittedly, the last few years have been rough for importers and exporters alike, but the long-term trend is still up. To this end, it is important to structure businesses to take advantage of it.  Having foreign currency accounts in an offshore bank can help international traders expand their business into new geographies, diversify their customer base and support pricing strategies. Transacting business through these accounts is easy and convenient.

    Hardly anyone will look back at the global economy in 2013 with fond memories – even the emerging markets took a hit – but 2014 is shaping up to be a much better year. According to a survey conducted by Grant Thornton, the prospects for recovery have improved in developed economies such as Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. The audit, tax and advisory firm notes that a resumption of growth in these countries could boost global GDP significantly.

    There is a glimmer of light in other parts of the world as well. The economies of developing Asia – particularly China, India and Indonesia – are expected to expand. Moreover, strong growth is expected in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. While Latin America’s overall economy will likely remain subdued, there are areas of promise. Mexico, for instance, is undergoing reforms that could result in increased local and foreign investment.

    Furthermore, business leaders are more optimistic: 40% of survey respondents expect profits to climb in 2014, compared to 35% in 2013. Those in Eastern Europe and North America are most bullish, followed by Latin America, the Nordics and the BRIC countries. As evidence, they say they are planning to step up their investments in 2014.

    World Trade Organization statistics show the dollar value of world merchandise exports in 2012, the latest year available, was $18.3 trillion. That will likely increase as economic prospects improve during 2014.

    “Those engaged in international trade should be thinking about how to optimally structure their business including how they price goods and services as well as make and receive payments,”  commented Mr. Filippo Alario, Executive Director, at Belize Bank International Ltd.

    Let’s say an import/export company in Latin America is engaged in ecommerce especially with the U.S. and Europe. The company can hold two separate offshore bank accounts denominated in U.S. dollars and euros. Such a structure helps reduce the importer/exporter’s risk of fluctuating exchange rates. In addition, they have the flexibility to invoice and make payments in two major currencies via wire transfer or other means and easily transfer funds between accounts. This not only offers greater convenience for trading partners, but it also provides a platform for global expansion and account holders are not subject to currency controls.

    Offshore bank accounts are an important tool for anyone involved in international business. Companies can take advantage of various corporate structures to conduct their transactions. Moreover, there is no restriction on incoming or outgoing transactions, allowing for free flow in and out of the account.

    The economic cycle has finally reached a stage where businesses can start planning for the future. Now is the time to consider setting up offshore foreign currency accounts as an enabler for executing global strategy.

     

    The information contained in this document is  for information purposes only and not for the purposes of providing legal advice.  You must not rely on the information in this document as an alternative to legal advice from your attorney or other professional legal services provider.   If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult your attorney or other professional legal services provider.

    On September 9, 2014
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    Historical Trends in Offshore Banking

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    In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, Switzerland declared itself neutral. That meant that no country could invade it or use it as a base of military operations. A little more than a century later, Switzerland introduced the Swiss Banking Act of 1934, which prohibited banks from providing authorities with personal and account information about their customers unless certain conditions apply.

    People tend to think Switzerland’s bank secrecy laws spawned the concept of offshore banking, yet it existed in the Caribbean long before then. Going back in history, 18th century colonialism drove an increase in international trade between the new world and the old. Plantation owners and merchants not only needed trade financing, but they also wanted to avoid paying high tax in their home country.

    Caribbean offshore banking really started to take off in the 1920s because its close proximity to the U.S. made the islands an attractive location for branches of foreign banks. In the years surrounding World War II, there was a huge shift in the world’s population along with a migration of funds in response to conflict and instability. Post-war, strict banking laws in countries such as Britain encouraged more business to flow toward offshore centers. For example, during the 1950s there was a ban on lending to non-British borrowers following devaluation of sterling.

    The same logic exists today. Businesses and individuals turn to offshore banks for:

    • Tax-effective financial planning
    • Availability of multi-currency accounts
    • Ability to set up offshore trusts
    • Protection of assets against political and economic instability or threat from legal matters

    If anything, there’s more demand for offshore banking. The world’s population is not only growing, but people are living and working longer. They’re better educated and more well-nourished, notably in emerging and frontier markets, which in turn leads to increased wealth. Business is global, and people are mobile: it’s not unsual for executives to live in many different countries during their career.

     Belize is well positioned to benefit from these trends. Geographically, it’s in close proximity to emerging economies in Latin America. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Brazil is the world’s eighth largest economy, Mexico ranks #12 and Argentina, Colombia, Perú and Chile rank in the top 50. The World Bank estimates 2013 GDP growth in the region will be 3.8% to 4%, largely driven by infrastructure development.

    Several other factors make Belize an attractive offshore banking center including:

    • Strong discretionary policies
    • Solid, sovereign government and a stable economy
    • No history of currency devaluation and fixed exchange rate pegged to the U.S. dollar since 1976
    • Tax treaties with multiple jurisdictions
    • Multilateral trade relationships and memberships with international organizations
    • Forward-thinking, technology-based culture

    Extrapolating on the theme of history repeating itself, author William Faulkner once said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” In Belize, we’re continuing to build on our strong heritage and strong foundation in Caribbean offshore banking.

     

    The information contained in this document is  for information purposes only and not for the purposes of providing legal advice.  You must not rely on the information in this document as an alternative to legal advice from your attorney or other professional legal services provider.   If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult your attorney or other professional legal services provider. 

     

    On August 19, 2014
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    Strengthening the Offshore Services Industry

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    In October 2013, the Government of Belize enacted several legislative amendments to strengthen its offshore financial services industry and its domestic corporate base. The move will enhance the country’s status with international regulatory bodies and ensure that Belize maintains its position as a premier offshore jurisdiction in the Caribbean.

    Recordkeeping

    The enactment of the Accounting Records (Maintenance) Act 2013 (Act No. 18 of 2013) (“ARMA”) strengthens financial recordkeeping. Entities may keep their accounting records at their registered office, their registered agent’s premises in Belize or elsewhere within or outside Belize. If accounting records are kept outside Belize, the entity must notify its registered agent in writing of the physical address where they are kept. The ARMA also requires accounting records to be kept for at least five years. An entity that fails to comply with the legislation may be struck from the register.

    “Belize Bank International Limited is fully prepared for the change,” says Filippo Alario, Executive Director. “We’re committed to assisting our clients to meet their obligations under the new legislation.”

    On-site inspections

    The legislature also approved the International Financial Services Commission (Amendment) Act 2013 and the International Foundations (Amendment) Act (“IFAA”). The IFSCA gives the International Financial Services Commission (“IFSC”) the power to conduct on-site inspections of international financial service practitioners. Registered agents of foundations must keep a register of the members, protectors, beneficiairies, auditors (where applicable), and any persons having power of attorney granted by the foundation. Prior to the amendments, the registered agent was only required to keep a register when the foundation did not have a Secretary. However, with the enactment of the new subsection 84(2), both the registered agent and the Secretary must keep a register and notify the Registrar of any changes within 14 days.

    Before the enactment of the IFAA, the International Foundations Act, 2010 stipulated that a person, who is not licensed or regulated under the International Financial Services Commission Act, could not serve as a member of more than one foundation. This provision limited the number of unlicensed persons who could act as members of foundations. Under the IFAA, a person who is not licensed or regulated by the IFSC may act as a member of more than one foundation. However, they may not act as the Belize resident member of more than one foundation.

    “In our opinion, the restriction was affecting the marketability of Belize foundations,” says Ava Lovell-Belisle, Managing Director of Belize Corporate Services Limited, a leading corporate services provider and an associate company of Belize Bank International Limited. Lovell-Belisle comments, “we welcome the change to the legislation because now our foundation customers will have more flexibility in appointing members.”

    Domestic Developments

    The legislature also passed the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2013 (“CAA”) and the Trusts (Amendment) Act, 2013 (“TAA”).

    The CAA did away with share warrants and introduced prohibitions against the issuance of bearer shares and share warrants to bearer. These changes are expected to have minimal impact on domestic companies since few have issued share warrants or bearer shares. Affected companies must comply within six months of the commencement of the CAA or they will be subject to de-registration.

    The amendment transferred the supervision and regulation of domestic companies from the Registrar General to the newly created Registrar of Companies.

    “Operational efficiency is extremely important to companies registered in Belize,” says Lovell-Belisle. “We believe the separation of these two functions will streamline many processes and make it easier for our corporate customers to do business in our country.”

    The CAA made it illegal to falsely and deceitfully impersonate a shareholder or owner of interest in a company with a view to obtain a share or interest in the company, or to receive money due to an owner. Moreover, it introduced the concept of single shareholder companies by eliminating the requirement for domestic companies to have two or more shareholders.

    The TAA created the Domestic Trust Register, and now domestic trusts must register with the Registrar of the Court. Domestic Trusts are defined in the TAA as express trusts made in writing under the law of Belize. International or offshore trusts are excluded. Only persons with written authorization from the settlor or trustee, and regulatory or enforcement authorities, may have access to the Domestic Trust Register. Settlors or trustees have to register existing domestic trusts within six months of the TAA effective date.

    The offshore financial services industry is constantly evolving. Keeping pace with change and aligning with international standards enables Belize to attract banking customers and compete with other offshore centers.

     

    The information contained in this document is  for information purposes only and not for the purposes of providing legal advice.  You must not rely on the information in this document as an alternative to legal advice from your attorney or other professional legal services provider.   If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult your attorney or other professional legal services provider.

    On July 9, 2014
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    Gearing Up for FATCA

    Uncategorized • Comments Off on Gearing Up for FATCA

    The U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was passed four years ago, but now all financial institutions are ramping up for its full implementation in July 2014. At Belize Bank International, we’re taking steps to safeguard the interests of our clients and inform them about what we have to do to comply with the law.

    Myriad questions may be running through your mind. What exactly is FATCA? Why was it enacted? Who does it apply to, and when does it become effective?

    The U.S. Congress enacted FATCA as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act to curb tax avoidance by U.S. persons through the use of accounts at foreign financial institutions. The law is far reaching in its scope. It applies to all financial institutions, multi-national corporations and U.S. persons with an interest in, or authority over, a foreign financial account if the aggregate account value exceeds $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for entities.

    If you’re an American expat, Green Card holder or international business owner, FATCA may apply to you. Some non-U.S. persons could be affected as well because U.S. entities may have to withhold tax on income paid to them depending on the source of the income. The list of witholdable payments includes interest, dividends, rents, royalties, salaries, wages, annunities, licensing fees, proceeds from the sale of property.

    FATCA boils down to this: U.S. taxpayers holding financial assets outside the U.S must report those assets to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Additionally, foreign financial institutions must report to the IRS certain information about financial accounts held by U.S. taxpayers, or by foreign entities in which U.S. taxpayers hold a substantial ownership interest.

    Rest assured that privacy and confidentially is a top priority at Belize Bank International, but as a responsible financial institution, we’re obliged to comply with FATCA. To this end, we will be reviewing our customer account files and contacting clients if it is necessary for their accounts to be retrofitted. For new accounts, all the necessary information will be gathered whilst on-boarding the client.

    Our goal is to ensure this process goes as smoothly as possible, and we stand ready to answer your questions. We also encourage you to seek further advice from your legal counsel and financial planner.

    On May 28, 2014
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