Doing Business In Belize

business-tower-belize-bank

Business and banking center Belize City.

Want to start a business here? We provide an easy to follow guide on essential requirements, tax code, banking, acquiring real estate and other useful information for the prospective entrepreneur.

The World Bank places us at number 152 in the ranking of 183 economies on the ease of starting a business index. This is not very encouraging when you consider that the country is in the dubious company of Suriname, Guyana and Haiti.

But Belize is making efforts to clean up its act and make for a more attractive business environment – and it faces serious challenges. Poverty, government corruption and inefficiency bog down an antiquated and cumbersome business regulatory apparatus and that can turn away even a determined investor.

For the bold however, doing business in Belize can be rewarding as the country has many unexplored opportunities. Government trade promotion groups such as BELTRAIDE are doing reasonably well at providing information and hand holding for new investors, and trying to streamline the start up of new business ventures.

The prospective investor should be aware that Belize is a very poor country and this is reflected in everyday life by no end of stumbling blocks that investors coming from First World countries should be aware of. Telephone and Internet access fees for example are astronomical, electricity supply is erratic and expensive, and applying for land is a tedious process that can take years. In summary, Belize is a very Third World country where progress shuffles forward at manana speed.

Any investor will be well advised to hire a competent accountant or attorney to help start up a business in Belize. A good professional will be able to guide you through the process and help you determine the best corporate, accounting and tax structure for your new venture. Doing business in Belize requires that you get the most efficient structure right to make and retain a reasonable profit.

Belize a well established offshore banking jurisdiction, but businesses operating in Belize cannot ordinarily benefit from these tax free structures. A business operating in Belize is onshore and subject to a myriad list of taxes and fees. But any business in any country can be legally structured to derive benefits from two or more jurisdictions – one or more of which can be an offshore entity. Consult your legal adviser on how to best achieve your goals. For certain types of investments, Belize offers Export Processing Zone structures that can bring some relief from the very high local taxes.

To make it easy for a prospective investor to understand the key requirements of doing business in Belize, we summarize below five important steps in the process. This is for a business setting up shop as a company. Establishing a business in Belize can also be done informally, or as a proprietor. This is far cheaper but as like anywhere, risks of liability are greater.

doing-business-in-belize-problematic-factors-chart

Problematic factors of doing business in Belize survey results chart has Crime, Taxes, Access To Finance and Government Corruption as major obstacles to investment. World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index report 2012.

Five Steps To Doing Business In Belize

Step 1 – Business Plan

* A business plan assists in identifying your competitive advantages, strengths, and weaknesses

* A business plan is needed to get financing from banks, investors, or funding agencies

* It allows for contingency planning, by enabling you to foresee problems before they arise

* It allows you to organize people, resources, and capital EFFICIENTLY

Step 2 – Registration of Business Name & Incorporation of a Company

2.1 Registration of Business Name (Business Names Act, Chapter 247 of the Laws of Belize)

* According to the laws of Belize, every firm or individual having a place of business in Belize needs to register the business name

* The registration of a Business Name is done at the Belize Companies Registry, City of Belmopan

* Minimum average processing time is 3 hours

* The application fee is Bz$25.00 (US$12.50)

2.2 Incorporation of a Company (Companies Act, Chapter 250 of the Laws of Belize)

* An operation must be incorporated in Belize for the conduct of such business

* Memorandum of Association and the Articles of Association must be prepared

* The above documents must be submitted to the Belize Companies Registry for review

* Subsequently, a Certificate of Incorporation is issued.

* Minimum average processing time is 3 hours.

* The application fee is dependent on the quantity of share capital

Step 3 – Land Acquisition and Development

National Lands (National Lands Act, Chapter 191 of the Laws of Belize)

* Submit application to the Commissioner of Lands – specify the location and acreage being sought.

* Applications for land in excess of 25 acres (0.10 km2), must also submit a development plan to the Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment.

* An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required for ventures entailing more than 500 acres (2.02 km2), as stipulated in the Environmental Protection Act Chapter 328 of the Laws of Belize

* The Minister retains the authority to grant final approval on applications

Private Property (Real Estate Agent )

* Provide Agent with criteria for land/property being sought

* Prepare a formal offer – based on value, 10% is held in escrow

* Title Transfer – prepared by an attorney or registered Agent – 1.5% or 2% value of land/property

* Stamp duty payable – 5% value of transaction

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

* When an EIA is required, twelve (12) copies of the EIA are to be submitted to the Department of the Environment (DOE).

* A decision on an EIA is made within sixty (60) days after receipt by the DOE.

* The decision on the EIA will be made by the DOE on the advice of the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC). Elfective April 1, 2007, the DOE instituted a non refundable application fee for the submissions of all projects, undertakings, or activities for Environmental Clearance, as required under the EIA (Amendment) Regulations, 2007.

Housing and Building Permits (The Belize City Building Act, Chapter 131 of the Laws of Belize)

* Any person who plans to construct, alter or demolish a building must frst obtain permission from the nearest administrating municipality, with final approval being granted by the local Building Authority. Upon completion of a building design, and prior to the commencement of construction, all plans and designs must be submitted to the local Building Authority.

* Average processing time is 2 weeks.

Step 4: Trade License

Trade License (Trade Licensing Act, Chapter 66 of the Laws of Belize)

* Obtained from the local city or town council,

* Final approval is based on the recommendation of the Trade Licensing Board responsible for each town or city,

* Fees are determined based on a percentage of the annual rental value of the premises and are due within 30 days after receipt of the bill.

Step 5: Registration for Taxes

General Sales Tax (GST) (General Sales Tax Act No. 45 of 2005)

* GST is a consumer tax applied at a rate of 12.5% on goods and services in Belize

* Only registered persons can charge GST.

* Must register at the Department of GST if conducting a

taxable activity and annual turnover exceeds BZ $75,000 (US$37,500).

* Business Tax A Tax Identification Number (TIN) and a Certifcate of Registration will be issued and must be displayed prominently at the place of business.

Income and Business Tax Act Chapter 55 of the Laws of Belize)

* Persons carrying on a trade or business earning over BZ$ 75,000 (US$37,500) annually are to file a monthly business tax return. Self-employed persons earning BZ$ 20, 000 or more annually are also to file business tax return.

* Rates vary according to business classifcation

* Business Tax is paid monthly to the Income Tax Department

Social Security Tax (Social Security Act, Chapter 44 of the Laws of Belize)

* Social Security covers the health benefits of employed persons in cases of sickness, maternity, or injury

* Payments are to be withheld and paid monthly to the Belize Social Security Board (SSB)

* Each employer is to ensure that persons are in possession of a valid social security card prior to hiring

* All employees are to register with the SSB

Stamp Duty/Transfer Tax (Stamp Duties Act, Chapter 64 of the Laws of Belize)

* Stamp Duty becomes payable on any transactions involving taxable land

* Nationals and Foreign Investors alike are required to pay 5% of the value; however if the value of the land falls below US$10,000 then the transaction is tax exempt.

References:

BELTRAIDE Belize Trade and Investment Development Service

Belize Chamber of Commerce Resources Page

World Bank Report Doing Business In Belize