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The Bahamas


Bahamas

HISTORY AND POLITICAL STRUCTURE

The Bahamas is a country consisting of 29 islands, 661 cays (sandy islands), and 2,387 islets (rocks). It is located in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and southeast of the United States. Its capital is Nassau.

The Bahamas were the site of Columbus’ first landfall in the New World in 1492. The islands were mostly deserted from 1513 to 1648, when British colonists from Bermuda settled on the island of Eleuthera.

The Bahamas became a Crown Colony in 1718 when the British clamped down on piracy. Following the American War of Independence, thousands of pro-British loyalists and enslaved Africans moved to The Bahamas and set up a plantation economy. The slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807 and many Africans were liberated from slave ships by the Royal Navy during the 19th century. Slavery itself was abolished in 1834.

Modern political development began after the Second World War. The first political parties were formed in the 1950s and the British made the islands internally self-governing in 1964. In addition, based on the twin pillars of tourism and offshore finance, the Bahamian economy has prospered since the 1950s.

On July 10th 1973 The Bahamas achieved its independence ending some 325 years of British rule.

The Bahamas is a member of the British Commonwealth and has a parliamentary democracy. The Government is headed by the Prime Minister and there is an Upper House, the Senate and a lower House of Assembly. Queen Elizabeth II is the nominal Head of State and is represented in The Bahamas by an appointed Governor General.

In the Bahamas there is no direct taxation, i.e. on capital gains, corporate earnings, personal income, sales, inheritance or dividends. However now there is stamp tax of 7% on goods imported for business use. Therefore, import duties are the main source of Bahamas government revenue.

A commission meets at intervals of not less than 5 years to review the constituency boundaries.

Under the constitution three types of legislation exist: the ‘specially entrenched’ provisions relating to parliament itself and the judicial system require a three-quarters majority in both houses and a popular referendum; ‘entrenched’ provisions require a two-thirds majority in both houses; and other legislation a simple majority vote.

Executive Branch

The Executive branch of Government consists of a Cabinet of at least nine members one of whom must be the Attorney General. It is headed by the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister appoints Cabinet Ministers from the House of Assembly.

Legislative Branch

The Parliament of The Bahamas consists of the House of Assembly and the Senate, which together constitute the law making body of the country. The process for the creation of laws in The Bahamas is the initial introduction of a bill to the House of Assembly which is read three times, debated and if passed forwarded to the Senate where the same procedure is followed. The bill is then sent to the Governor General for signature, and subsequent gazetting at which time it becomes law.

Judicial Branch

The Constitution of The Bahamas provides for an independent Bahamian Judiciary. Generally the judicial system in The Bahamas follows the English common law.

Furthermore, there is a large body of local statutes, which together with the common law constitute the laws of The Bahamas. There are three levels of courts in The Bahamas: the

Magistrates Court which determines small claims; the Supreme Court which has unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters; and The Bahamas Court of Appeal which is the highest court sitting in The Bahamas which hears appeals from the Supreme Court.

ECONOMY

The Bahamas is one of the wealthiest Caribbean countries with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and offshore banking. Tourism as an industry that does not only account for over 60 percent of the Bahamian GDP, but provides jobs for more than half the country’s workforce.   After tourism, the most important economic sector is financial services and accounting that amounts to around 15 percent of GDP.

The economy has a very competitive tax regime. The government derives its revenue from import tariffs, licence fees,
property and stamp taxes, but there is no income tax, corporate tax, capital gains tax, value-added tax (VAT), or wealth
tax.

The Bahamas is the fourth richest country in America, as well as the richest one that lies south of the Mexico - US border, and lastly, the richest one in the world whose population is predominantly of African origin.

Overall growth prospects in the short run rest heavily on the tourism sector, which depends on growth in the US, the source of more than 80% of the visitors. In addition to tourism and banking, the government supports the development of a “third pillar,” e-commerce that will help the economy.

WHY CHOOSE BAHAMAS WHEN STARTING A BUSINESS?

The Bahamas, as one of the top centers for offshore business, offers a good environment for company formation and offshore banking.  Some of the benefits that the Bahamas offers are the issuance of taxation that presents no problems for financial institutions and the Bahamian legal system provides strong security through privacy laws. In addition, the Bahamas offer a steady economic site and a high end system in telecommunications. Furthermore, the Bahamas is strategically located within 50 miles of the United States of America.

Bahamas IBCs are regulated by the Bahamas Government and subject to the following legislation:

  • Bahamas International Business Companies Act, 2000
  • Bahamas International Business Companies (Amendment) Act, 2004
  • Bahamas International Business Companies (Amendment to Fee Schedule) Order, 2004

A Bahamas IBC can be used for:

  • Asset Management and Holding
  • Trading Activities
  • Personal Service Company
  • Consultancy Services
  • Yacht Registration
  • Investment holding (passive)

Advantages of the Jurisdiction of Bahamas

  • IBC are exempt from all taxes and stamp duties. There is no taxation on any kind of income, capital gains, or other taxes.
  • There are no annual reporting Requirements.
  • No auditing.
  • The standard currency of share capital is the United States Dollar (USD). However, any currency is permitted.
  • The minimum share capital required is USD $1.
  • No local directors or managers are required.
  • Directors meeting may be held anywhere.
  • No Company Secretary is needed.
  • The name of the Director(s) is filed with the Registrar, and is available to the Public; the name of the Beneficial Owner is not.
  • The bank account location may be anywhere.
  • Excellent political stability.
  • Since by law the corporation is a legal body, you have the advantage of being able to buy and sell shares without effecting the operations of the corporation. Shares can be bought by anyone at any time.
  • Usually 3 working days are needed for the formation, but we need up to 10 working days for legalization of the documents and delivery by courier.

Placing an order for the formation of a Company

An application must be submitted to the Registrar in order to incorporate a Bahamas IBC.  The CRO (Companies Registration Office), and will give you notice of any potential conflicts or possible objection concerning the documents. The Formation Area of the Companies Registration Office will draft your statuary and legal documents and will send them via mail to be signed. Once the documents are signed and sent back to the CRO, the formation area will complete the documents and send the desired package to the directors to start the new business.

The application must be accompanied by the following documents at the time of registration:

  • Memorandum of association
  • Articles of association
  • Address of the Registered Office
  • Name and address of the Registered Agent; and   A written certification from either:
  • a counsel and attorney engaged in the formation of the Bahamian company, or
  • The Registered Agent as named in the memorandum of association of the    Bahamian company, certifying that the registration requirements have been met.

There is an incorporation fee as well as an annual registration fee which is payable to the Registrar on 1 January for an IBC the amount, depending on the authorised capital of the company. Where the Bahamas Company is of unlimited liability or is limited by guarantee or includes no par value shares a different fee is paid. The first annual registration fee is payable in the year immediately succeeding the year of incorporation.

Requirements for the Registration of a Bahamas IBC

  • Director: At least one natural or legal person, of any nationality.
  • Secretary: There is no requirement to have a secretary.
  • Shareholder: At least 1 shareholder.
  • Share Capital: The company must have at least 50,000 US$ in capital. It does not have to be paid up in shares and can be in any currency. Bearer shares are not allowed.
  • Name of Company: The company name must end in “Limited”, “Corporation”, “Incorporated”, “Sociιtι Anonyme”, “Sociedad Anonima”, “Gesellschaft mit beschrδnkter Haftung” or the associated abbreviations, Ltd., Corp., Inc., GmbH, SA. .

Corporate documents of a Bahamas company

  • Certificate of Incorporation, issued by the Registrar of Companies of the Commonwealth of Bahamas.
  • Memorandum and Articles of Association, signed by the Subscribers of the Company.
  • Minutes of the Meeting of Subscribers - a document confirming appointment of the Nominee Director/s of the Company.
  • General Power of Attorney, signed by the Nominee Director/s of the Company.
  • Share Certificates, signed by the Nominee Director/s of the Company.
  • General Power of Attorney, signed by the Nominee Director/s of the Company.
  • Agreement for the provision of nominee services and indemnification of the nominee; a document confirming ownership rights of the Beneficial Owner.
  • Legal address of the Company in the Bahamas.

The Bahamas has grown into a financial and trading hub for offshore companies. During the last 10 years, the rapid growth of IBC incorporation has established the Bahamas as an international financial center. The Bahamas is considered an ideal choice for offshore incorporation due to flexible IBC legislations, low tax regime, booming economy, liberal approach to trade, well developed infrastructure, strong regulatory system, best professional services, confidentiality, ease of administration, no restrictions on foreign trade, minimum compliance requirement, enormous opportunities, attractive investment incentives, exemption from tax on capital gains, dividends, interests, stamp duties etc. That is why a lot of businessmen choose to start a business in The Bahamas.

GENERAL OVERVIEW

Location

Archipelago of islands in Atlantic Ocean, 80 km off the southeast coast of Florida.

Time zone

Eastern (EDT/EST).

Population

347,000

Capital

Nassau, New Providence.

Airport(s)

Main: Sir Lynden Pidling International Airport (Nassau).

Language

English.

Currency

Bahamas.

Political system

Queen of England is Head of State, represented by a Governor-General. Constitutional parlia­mentary democracy; bi-cameral legislature.

International dialling code

+242.

Legal system

Based on English Common Law.

Centre’s expertise

Leader in private wealth management (PWM) services; banking & trust, investment funds, securi­ties advisory, corporate services.

TAX

Personal income tax

No.

Corporate income tax

Yes.

Exchange restrictions

Resident: some.

Tax treaties

None.

SHARE CAPITAL

Permitted currencies

No restrictions.

Minimum authorised capital

IBC: No minimum capital required.

Minimum share issue

None. (In practice one).

TYPE OF ENTITY

Shelf companies

Yes. Allowed.

Timescale for new entities

Within 24 hours subject to name availability and reservation.

Incorporation fees

IBC: US $500 to US $1,500

Annual fees

IBC with authorised capital of US $0 to US $50,000 - US $350. IBC with authorised capital of US $50,001 and over - US $l,000.

DIRECTORS

Minimum number

IBC: One.

Residency requirements

A director/ secretary need not be resident.

Corporate directors

Yes.

Meetings/frequency

Discretionary.

SHAREHOLDERS

Disclosure

Register of Directors and Officers.

Bearer shares

Not allowed.

Minimum number

IBC: a minimum of one shareholder.

Public share registry

No.

Meetings / frequency

IBCs: AGMs are not required but can be held anywhere or by telephone.

ACCOUNTS

Annual return

IBC - No.

Audit requirements

None, unless required by the IBCs Articles of Association.

OTHER

Registered office

Yes. An IBC is also required to appoint a registered agent in The Bahamas.

Domicile issues

Change of Domicile permitted.

Company naming restrictions

IBC Prohibited Names: 'Assurance', 'Bank', 'Building Society', 'Chamber of Commerce', 'Char­tered', 'Cooperative', 'Imperial', 'Municipal', 'Royal', 'Trust', etc. Names must end with an appropri­ate suffix such as 'Incorporated', 'Limited', 'Corporation', 'Gesellschaft mit beschrankkter Haftung', 'Sociedad Anonima' or respective abbreviations.

Vision

Let’s look into the future together