Why Choose BVI as an Offshore Tax Haven
The British Virgin Islands has proven to be one of the most attractive jurisdictions in the world for establishing an offshore business. This British territory has up-to-date company laws and regulations that have been specifically designed to attract offshore investors. The British Virgin Islands (BVI) has an open economy that is driven largely by the financial sector, as well as tax laws coupled with a strong regulatory framework that highly favors doing business in the territory.
The British Virgin Island economy is the most prosperous in the Caribbean area. The per capita GDP is high, the literacy rate of the adult population approaches 100%, and there is a strong legal and accounting presence in the islands to provide assistance to those wishing to establish an offshore business there. The BVI is a member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CTATF) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and has been "white listed" by all three organizations.
Benefits of BVI Offshore Company Formations
- A BVI offshore company pays zero income tax. There is no British Virgin Islands tax on capital gains tax, nor are there gift taxes, inheritance taxes, sales taxes, or value added taxes.
- Leading international legal and accounting businesses have a strong presence in the BVI, which enjoys a strong international reputation in the Funds and Investments, Corporate Business, Ship and Aircraft Registration, Captive Insurance and Trust and Estate Planning.
- The BVI has signed over 17 Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) including agreements with Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
- The BVI features a sub-tropical climate, tranquil waters, and is a destination for those who love yachting and water sports or enjoy ocean cruises.
- The BVI enjoys strong ties with the U. S. Virgin Islands as well as with Puerto Rico. The U.S. dollar is the currency used within the BVI. Being a member of the British Commonwealth, the BVI has strong ties both with the UK and the EU as well.
- Although the both the BVI population and the size of the GDP is smaller than is the case with most nations, its per capita GDP exceeds $38,000 (2008 estimate).
- The government of the British Virgin Islands is noted for its stability. The law in the territory is based on British common law.
- The BVI offers a significant amount of flexibility in the way which corporate mergers and acquisitions can take place. BVI companies and foreign companies are allowed to merge and existing companies are allowed to transfer to or from the BVI.
- International banks having a presence in the British Virgin Islands include the London International Bank and Trust Company Ltd., The Bank of East Asia (BV) Ltd., Scotia Bank, and the First Caribbean National Bank
In-Depth Information about the British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are located in the Eastern Caribbean. The territory lies to the east of Puerto Rico and is in close proximity and just to the northeast of the U. S. Virgin Islands. There are approximately 60 islands and islets in the BVI of which 16 are inhabited. The total land area is 151 square miles and the largest island is Tortola, which is where the capital and commercial center is located. The islands that make up this British Territory are either flat coral islands or steep and hilly volcanic islands. Constant trade winds make the BVI climate both subtropical and pleasant.
The BVI is an internal self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom. The Chief of State is the Queen of England who is represented by the British Virgin Islands Governor. The BVI Prime Minister is the head of government. The Prime Minister’s cabinet, the Executive Council, is appointed by the governor from members of the Legislative Branch’s House of Assembly. The leader of the majority party (or of a majority coalition) in the House of Assembly is normally appointed by the governor to the post of Prime Minister.
The House of Assembly is a unicameral body consisting of 13 elected seats together with one non-voting member, the attorney general. Members are elected by popular vote and serve 4-year terms. The highest court is the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. Three of the high judges reside in the BVI.
Economy and Infrastructure
The British Virgin Islands features one of the most prosperous economies in the Caribbean with a per capita GDP that ranks within the top 20 in the world. Approximately 60% of the BVI economy is based on financial services, primarily British Virgin Islands offshore financial services, with the bulk of the remainder based on tourism. The BVI has become a cruise ship destination in recent years.
There were nearly 448,000 active BVI companies in 2012. Incorporation fees account for nearly half the BVI annual revenues. The territory is among the largest domiciles in the world for formation of offshore investment funds, at one point in recent years being second only to the Cayman Islands. With respect to being a source of foreign direct investment, only Hong Kong is a larger source.
Current estimates indicate that upwards of US$125 billion is invested in the BVI each year.
Population, Language and Culture
What is now the British Virgin Islands was first sighted by Christopher Columbus is 1493. The Dutch were the first to establish a European presence on the islands. The islands came under British rule in 1666. English is the official language, the language of business and commerce, and is also the most widely spoken language in the islands. The BVI population was estimated to be 32,000 in 2013. Approximately a third of the population lives in Road Town, the capital, and 41% of the population lives in an urban setting. 82% majority of the population are Afro-Caribbean, 6.8% are white, and the remainder are Indian or mixed.
The national holiday in the BVI is Territory Day, which is celebrated on July 1. Among the various events and festivals of importance the most important is the Emancipation Festival, an annual event celebrating the end of slavery in 1843. The love of water sports that is characteristic of the islands' inhabitants makes itself known during the Spring Regatta. There is also an annual Music Festival, an Easter Festival, and a Christmas on Main Street event held each year in the capital. The close ties between the BVI and the U.S. Virgin Islands are celebrated once a year on BVI/USVI Friendship Day.
The citizens of the Territory are called British Virgin Islanders. All BVI citizens are also British citizens and can travel on a UK passport and work in the UK and in the EU. Approximately 85% of the population is Protestant. Another 10% is Roman Catholic. The literacy rate of the population over 15 years of age in the BVI is 98.2%.
The British Virgin Islands has no exchange controls. The US dollar is both legal tender and the currency that is in use. There are no restrictions on the movement of dollar funds into or out of the BVI. Holders of US dollars may freely convert them to other currencies.
The BVI Financial Services Commission is the single financial services regulator in the territory and in conjunction with the British Virgin Islands corporate registry is responsible for authorizing and registering companies or individuals to conduct business in the territory.
Type of Law
The British Virgin Islands law is based heavily on English common law. The Territory's laws that apply to British Virgin Islands companies, including offshore companies, are quite modern and up-to-date to the point where regulations are presently in place addressing e-commerce. British Virgin Islands company law is regarded by international investors as being extremely sophisticated and is therefore subject to being copied by other offshore jurisdictions. Much of British Virgin Islands company law addresses financial services, key statues being the Securities and Investment Business Act 2010, the Companies Management Act 1990, and the Financing and Money Services Act 2009. BVI law provides a stable framework for BVI offshore company formation and for investors in general.
Principle Corporate Legislation
It is worth pointing out that the BVI government takes some pains to avoid the use of the term “British Virgin Islands tax haven” lest investors look upon the jurisdiction as a place where tax evasion is practiced, which is illegal, rather than a place where tax avoidance is practiced, which is legal. The BVI has a fair and open tax system.
The principal statute for BVI company law is the BVI Business Companies Act 2004. This statute supersedes the International Business Companies Act, which was based on Delaware Company law. This newer statute is based on the New Zealand statute and applies to both local and offshore businesses. Passage of the Act was designed to make BVI more attractive as an offshore financial center.
The BVI Business Companies Act 2004 among other things modernized the regime for registration of security interests, increased the types of companies that can be formed, removed restrictions in relation to the declaration of dividends and removed the requirement that companies had to have a stated corporate object.