Belize is a leading Caribbean offshore banking jurisdiction located in northern Central America. Many visitors to this country are intrigued about offshore banking. The growth in international travel, and the increasing use of the Internet to make a living or help manage businesses from afar, has led to the growing use of offshore banking and offshore trusts to help manage income, money and assets. Many modern-day entrepreneurs and others have made the decision to relocate or diversify their financial affairs and open offshore accounts.
As a premier offshore banking center, the country offers unique advantages. You can fly here (under two hours from the U.S.A.) or actually drive up from North America through Mexico – about 36 hours from Houston. This is a mainland country with hundreds of offshore islands. Of course you can also sail on down on your catamaran or yacht. After all the country is also a highly regarded offshore Merchant Marine Registry as well and serves as a marine registry for several private and publicly traded shipping companies around the world.
The year 2017 marks the 27nd anniversary of the birth of Belize’s international financial services industry. Starting from scratch in 1990, this offshore banking center has built up a thriving financial services business. It offers a variety of offshore structures geared to the needs of international investors. These include international business companies, international trusts, protected cell companies, limited liability partnerships, mutual funds, captive and other forms of insurance, international foundations, Forex and securities trading, open ships registry, and a host of other related services.
Why Belize For Offshore Banking?
Noted American writer Bruce Barcott describes Belize thus: “Belize is a tiny nation tucked between Guatemala, Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. It is firmly attached to Central America but considers itself a Caribbean island. For more than a hundred years Belize was known as British Honduras, one of the most remote outposts of the British Empire, which explains why it is the only Latin American nation to embrace English as its official language. Belize goes unnoticed by the rest of the world, and over the years the country has parlayed its obscurity into an attractive asset. For those shipwrecked on the shoals of life, Belize offers a new beginning.”
Here we offer our popular Offshore Banking FAQ. Based on on our laws; many aspects cover other offshore jurisdictions.
What is Legal Offshore Banking?
It is simply banking in a jurisdiction other than the one in which you live or have citizenship or residency.
What are the benefits of Legal Offshore Banking?
Offshore Banking may have tax benefits. For example earned interest on offshore accounts and investments is paid without the deduction of tax. You may also be able to reduce your tax liability in your home country by transferring savings and investments to an offshore bank account. Added benefits include high levels of confidentiality, security and convenience, as well as global access. Offshore banks offer ways to legally move your 401K account to Belize to help finance your retirement income or build the ultimate retirement home. Check out our exclusive Belize Retirement Book.
Do I have to travel overseas to bank offshore?
No. You never actually have to visit your offshore bank. You can simply bank from wherever in the world you live, via a secure Internet connection, secure e-mail, post or telephone (either through a touch tone phone or by contacting your banking representative or registered agent). You can also use an ATM card provided by the offshore bank.
How do I get an offshore account?
There are several companies that specialize in setting up offshore bank accounts. We suggest the Belize Bank International located in Belize and the Turk and Caicos Islands (known as the British Caribbean Bank). You may also consider law firms and Belize lawyers that act as Registered Agents for offshore banks.
We strongly recommend due diligence by personally visiting the bank or law firm and making your own assessment as to the pros and cons of a service provider. Kindly mention Belize.com if you decide to contact these attorneys. The first step to an offshore account is to establish an International Business Company, also known as an IBC.
Is it legal for me to get an offshore account?
Yes, absolutely legal. Offshore banking has been routinely and legally used for many years by individuals, companies big and small and organizations worldwide. Once the exclusive purview of high net worth individuals, offshore banking has come of age and is accessible to most anyone. Because many countries encourage international trade and enterprise, there are usually only limited restrictions on residents doing business or having bank accounts in other countries. However, reporting requirements on these accounts differ from country to country.
What about income tax on income I’ve earned offshore?
Some countries require residents to declare their income on a worldwide basis and tax is payable on all your income. In certain circumstances the income of an entity which you control may also be taxable. For this reason, most countries have no restrictions on where your business interests, investments or bank accounts may be located. It is your responsibility to report income to your tax authority. Belize has no such requirement and best of all no Capital Gains Tax. U.S. News and World Reports says Belize is one of the Top Ten Retirement Destinations In The World.
If I have to pay taxes why should I bank offshore?
There are many other reasons to bank offshore apart from minimizing your tax liability. Other reasons include asset protection, estate planning, confidentiality, better returns and the ability to advance active business interests overseas from a zero tax jurisdiction with near hermetic confidentiality.
I would like to keep my personal affairs confidential for reasons other than tax minimization. Are confidentiality and privacy ensured?
Offshore jurisdictions offer extraordinary levels of confidentiality but they cannot offer absolute secrecy. All financial institutions have a legal obligation to report suspicions of serious criminal conduct. Foreign authorities can seek information through the legal system, where there are well-founded suspicions of serious crime. A serious crime is defined as anything which is a crime in the offshore jurisdictions and would warrant a prison sentence of at least twelve months. Near absolute anonymity and confidentiality are achievable via a combination of various offshore vehicles, including International Business Companies (IBCs) and Offshore Trusts. Otherwise, all personal data is subject to modern data protection legislation, and there are severe civil and criminal penalties for breach of confidentiality and unauthorized disclosure of client information.
Can I get a debit or credit card with my offshore account?
Yes. You get an internationally accepted debit or credit card. And you can access cash from ATMs worldwide. Debit and credit card cards can be issued in your name, or the name of your offshore company or trust. The latter arrangement can be of particular personal safety benefit when traveling in high-risk areas such as the Middle East, Africa, the Arab world or other hot spots where carrying credit or debit cards issued in western countries can be a liability.
As of June 2015 the offshore banking industry underwent a transformation. Western countries have been exerting pressure on Belize to enact regulations in an attempt to bring more transparency to the industry.
In a statement to the media on June 23, Prime Minister Dean Barrow declared that “The international community is determined and has been determined for a while to close down our offshore sector. This is just a continuation of the kind of actions they have been taking over a period of time now. Stretching back to try to achieve their objective; what I saw, somebody made the point that their own offshore jurisdiction I love they said nothing about them so that is what is involved there. I have no doubt that sooner or later they will succeed. This is the empire striking back but I think our offshore people have been preparing themselves for a while now because it has been like I said a constant onslaught. I am sorry to say that I wouldn’t be surprised that if in the end they don’t achieve their objective.”
Several banks in Belize are currently moving away from consumer type offshore account activities, and adopting a more offshore investment banking focus. Our advice is to visit Belize for one on one consultations with your offshore banking provider.