Corporate & Business Law
1. Can a foreigner register a business or incorporate a company in Belize?
Foreigners are legally entitled to register a business (Business Names Act, chapter 247 of the Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2000-2003) and incorporate a company (Companies Act, chapter 250 of the Laws of Belize) to do business in Belize, subject to the approval of the Central Bank of Belize. Companies incorporated in Belize as International Business Companies (IBCs) require no Central Bank approval. However, such companies cannot do business with residents of Belize. Approvals obtained from the Central Bank involve a simple application process of approximately 2-3 weeks. Companies incorporated outside of Belize may also be registered to do business in Belize.
2. What are the tax implications for foreigners doing business in Belize?
The income from any business operation is taxable at the current rate of 25% (income tax) or at business tax rates listed in Schedule 9 to the Income & Business Tax Act chapter 55 of the Laws of Belize.
3. How long does it take to register a business or incorporate a company in Belize?
Same or next day incorporation are the norm for IBCs. 5- 7 days processing is required for local companies (subject to Central Bank approval).
4. How many persons are needed for start-up?
1 person with at least 1 resident of Belize can register a business in Belize. For IBCs, 1 person can act in both capacity of member and director. All other companies require at least 2 members and 2 directors (may be one and same).
5. Are limited liability companies available in Belize?
Yes. With the exception of non-profit companies, all companies formed under the Laws of Belize have limited liability. With the exception of IBCs (which may use designations INC. S.A. etc.) and non-profit companies, the name of a company must end with the formulation ″LIMITED/LTD.″
1. Can a foreigner buy land in Belize?
Foreigners can buy land in Belize for any required purpose. The title to land may be held in one or more personal names (for trusts the trustee would hold title), the name of a foreign company or a Belizean company owned by foreigners. However, IBCs are not allowed to take title to land in Belize.
2. Are there any special conditions for foreigners buying land in Belize?
All purchases of land by foreigners in their personal name or via a foreign company or a Belizean company require the approval of the Central Bank. Proof of investment in the country is required as part of the conditions for the grant of Central Bank approval.
In addition, government owned land can be purchased by foreigners once an alien landholding licence is obtained.
3. At what rate are taxes assessed against land in Belize?
Property taxes vary according to land use and location. Unimproved land bear a lower tax rate than improved land. In some cases, the annual rental value of a residence is used to determine the level of taxes. Condominium developments may be subject to 2 taxes i.e. land tax and property tax.
4. What are the transfer fees associated with a purchase of land?
All land purchases attract stamp duties. Stamp duty is assessed at 5% on amounts in excess of US$10K.
5. How long does it take to obtain title to land in Belize?
Generally, the process takes approximately 2-6 months. The length of time is highly dependent on the type of title being transferred. Currently there are 5 different types of title processed under the land registry system, ranging from Leases to Land Certificates. If there is a need to re-register the Vendor’s original title (where the property falls within a registered area), this will delay the process as re-registration must take place before the transfer of the title from the Vendor is processed.
Banking & Finance
1. Which currency is legal tender in Belize?
The Belize dollar is legal tender in Belize. However, US dollars are accepted in most cases.
2. Can a foreigner open a bank account in Belize?
Foreigners can open accounts at any local bank in Belize or with a Belize offshore banking institution, subject to the individual bankers’ requirements. Accounts with local banks are available only in local currency whereas accounts with offshore banks are available in currencies such as Pound Sterling, US dollars, Euro, and Canadian dollars.
3. Which local banks operate in Belize?
Currently there are 6 local banks operating in Belize namely: Atlantic Bank Ltd., ScotiaBank (Belize) Ltd., Heritage Bank Ltd; First Caribbean International Bank of (Barbados) Ltd., The Belize Bank Ltd. and National Bank of Belize Ltd.
4. What are the requirements for opening a bank account?
The typical standard requirements for opening a bank account include the following:
a) Bankers’ reference;
b) Character reference;
c) Notarized copy of identification doc.;
d) Proof of address in the form of utility bills.
5. Can a foreigner obtain mortgage financing in Belize?
Mortgage financing is available to foreigners so long as the subject of the mortgage security is located in Belize.
1. Are foreigners allowed to invest in Belize?
2. What types of investments are available in Belize?
Many investors in Belize are attracted to low priced land for re-sale with or devoid of development. Some companies such as Belize Electricity Limited and Belize Telecom Ltd. offer debentures and shares from time to time to the general public. However, there is no stock exchange in operation in Belize. The Belize Bank Limited acts as registered agent in some cases for the sale and purchase of stocks listed on some international exchanges.
With the successful discovery of oil and exploratory activities primarily in the Western region of the country, there is opportunity for prospecting. In addition, mining for gold and precious metals coupled with traditional logging operations are options, subject to licensing by the Government of Belize.
3. Can I use Belize as my jurisdiction of choice to govern a contract with another foreigner or a resident of Belize, the subject matter of which may or may not be in Belize?
Yes. Contractual terms determine the jurisdiction which will govern the interpretation of the contract irrespective of where the subject matter or parties to the contract are physically located.
4. If I invest in Belize how can I repatriate my profits?
Due to the fact that Belize has exchange control restrictions, the movement of foreign currency in and out of Belize is monitored by the Central Bank. Therefore, investors are advised to register their investment with the Central Bank to facilitate ease in repatriation of profits. This process is conducted via local commercial banks.
5. Can a resident of Belize act on my behalf for the purpose of carrying out contractual obligations?
A power of attorney document properly executed by a principal can facilitate a resident agent carrying out responsibilities on behalf of that principal. In some cases, such as dealings in land, the power of attorney must be registered in Belize.
1. Does Belize have zoning laws?
All towns are governed by zoning laws which affect the location and type of construction contemplated.
2. What approvals (if any) are required to construct a building in Belize and what fees are involved?
An approved construction plan is required as well as a building permit to commence construction of any building. Terms and conditions of building permits will vary according to the location of the construction site and type of building to be erected. The Housing and Planning Department is responsible for monitoring the construction of buildings and issuing building permits to ensure compliance with building codes.
Fees vary depending on the size of the building and its nature i.e. whether it is for commercial or residential purposes.
3. How long does it take to get a building permit?
Once an application is completed satisfactorily, a building permit may be issued within 4 weeks of submission of the application.
4. What is the standard cost of construction?
Prices range between US$50.00-US$100.00 per sq. ft. The level of fees is determined by the building contractor and not by statute.
5. What is required to obtain a subdivision of large plots of land to facilitate a transfer of title to each subdivided plot?
A proposed sub-division plan is required to be submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources for approval and authentication. Once approval is obtained and the plot is physically surveyed, the titles to the individual lots are capable of being transferred.