Belize (formerly British Honduras) is a scenically beautiful, independent country located on the Caribbean seaboard of Central America. It has an area of approximately 23,026 sq. km, and is bounded by Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south. The administrative capital is Belmopan, but the major commercial centre is Belize City, which is located on the eastern coast close to the major international airport.
The total population of Belize is around 273, 700 of which some 60,000 live in Belize City. Much of the country’s population is ethnically diverse and includes descendants of the original Mayan culture and people of Caribbean, Caucasian, Chinese and East Indian descent.
Belize has a long history of peace, stability and democracy. It became a British Crown Colony in 1862 and achieved complete self-rule in 1981. Belize is a member of the British Commonwealth, the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. Executive authority is exercised by the Cabinet under the leadership of the Prime Minister, subject to approval by a 28 member Senate with the majority appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
The law of Belize is derived from English common law, supplemented by local legislation. The court system is similar to the one in England, and contract and commercial is also based on the English law model.
There are two main political parties; both parties are committed to the economic development of the country and the encouragement of overseas investment.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND ECONOMY
The Belizean Government has promoted economic development through a mixed economy with private sector support and the public sector judiciously utilizing foreign borrowing, mainly on confessional terms, for infrastructure development. As of 2001, real GDP growth rate is estimated at 3% with agriculture, industry and services composing GDP.
Belize’s unspoiled environment with cays and barrier reef make it a popular destination for eco-tourists, whilst its clear unpolluted waters are excellent for swimming, diving, fishing and other aqua sports. The country also offers a unique mix of unspoiled woodlands, caves, rivers, mountains, waterfalls and jungle, in addition to a wealth of Mayan archaeological sites. There are also forest reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, marine resort areas and the world’s only jaguar reserve. Major exports are sugar, bananas, citrus products, fishery products, garments and timber and wood products. The offshore finance industry is generating an increasing proportion of national income.
The combination of excellent service, modern corporate and fiscal legislation affords an extremely attractive environment for the global investor.
The official and spoken language is English.
The Belize Dollar (BZ$), at an exchange rate of Bz$ 2.00 = US$ 1.00 since 1973.
Offshore activities are exempted from exchange control.
TYPE OF LAW
Common Law. Based on English Company Law.
PRINCIPAL CORPORATE LEGISLATION
International Business Companies Act, 2000
TYPE OF COMPANY FOR INTERNATIONAL HOLDING, TRADE AND INVESTMENT
International Business Company (IBC).
PROCEDURE TO INCORPORATE
Registered Agent delivers the Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association to the Registry together with the appropriate fee.
RESTRICTIONS ON TRADING
Cannot trade within Belize or own real estate there. Cannot undertake the business of banking, insurance, assurance or reinsurance.
POWERS OF COMPANY
An IBC incorporated in Belize has the same powers as a natural person.
LANGUAGE OF LEGISLATION AND CORPORATE DOCUMENTS
SHELF COMPANIES AVAILABLE
TIME TO INCORPORATE
One week, but a further two days are required for the release of documentation from the Registry.
Any name that has already been incorporated, or is so similar as to cause confusion. Any name which in the opinion of the Registrar is considered undesirable, obscene or offensive. Names such as royal or imperial and any name which suggests the patronage of Belize Government.
LANGUAGE OF NAME
A Belize IBC can be incorporated using any language. Chinese language incorporations with Chinese documentation are very popular.
REGISTERED OFFICE REQUIRED
Yes, must be maintained in Belize at the address of a licensed management company.
NAMES REQUIRING CONSENT OR LICENSE
Bank, building society, savings, loans, insurance, assurance, reinsurance, trust, trustees, Chamber of Commerce, university, municipal or their foreign language equivalents or any name in English or a foreign language that may suggest association with the banking or insurance industries.
SUFFIXES TO DENOTE LIMITED LIABILITY
Limited, Corporation, Incorporation, Sociètè Anonyme, Sociedad Anónima, Gesellschaft mit beshränkter Haftung or the relevant abbreviations.
DISCLOSURE OF BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP TO AUTHORITIES
SHARES, TAXATION AND OTHER MATTERS
AUTHORIZED AND ISSUED SHARE CAPITAL
The normal authorized share capital is US$ 50,000 divided in to shares with or without par value. The share capital may be expressed in any currency. The minimum issued capital may be one share of no par value or one share of par value.
CLASSES OF SHARES PERMITTED
Registered shares of no par value, preference shares, redeemable shares and shares with or without voting rights.
BEARER SHARES PERMITTED
Bearer shares are available but must be held by an approved custodian.
An International Business Company does not pay any tax on its world-wide profits to Belize authorities.
DOUBLE TAXATION AGREEMENTS
A Belize IBC may not be used to access any of Belize’s double tax agreements.
Companies with an authorized capital up to US$ 50,000 pay the sum of US$ 100 per year. Companies with a share capital over US$ 50,001 pay the sum of US$ 1,000 per year.
Companies, which have some or all of their shares with no par value, pay the sum of US$ 350 per year.
FINANCIAL STATEMENT REQUIREMENTS
Whilst there is no requirement to file audited accounts with the authorities, a company is required to keep financial records which reflect the financial position of a company.
The minimum number of directors is one. Directors may be natural persons or bodies corporate. They can be of any nationality and need not be Belize resident.
A company secretary is not a requirement under the Act, but a secretary is normally appointed to facilitate signing obligations.
The minimum number of shareholders is one.