Location

Belize is located on the Caribbean seaboard of Central America between Mexico and Guatemala. It has an area of approximately 9,000 square miles; 174 miles at its longest point by 68 miles at its widest point. Built in 1970, Belmopan is the capital of the country.

Political Structure

Belize became a British Crown Colony in 1862. In the early 1900’s, Belize had grown to nearly 40,000 inhabitants. But a destructive 1931 hurricane destroyed Belize City and by the 1930’s, the economy was so poor that the residents began to call for independence.

By 1954 voting rights were extended to all adults, and by 1961, England agreed to begin the process of setting Belize free. In 1973, the colony’s name was changed from British Honduras to Belize and on September 21, 1981, Belize’s Independence was declared.

Belize is now a parliamentary democracy similar to Canada or the United Kingdom and is one of the most stable nations in Latin America. It has never suffered a military coup, a revolution, or guerrilla warfare. Queen Elizabeth II is Belize’s head of state.

Economy and Infrastructure

Belize has a free enterprise system, although its government recently nationalized Belize Electric Limited (BEL), the nation’s largest utility, and the telephone company, Belize Telemedia Limited or BTL.

Belize’s economy is based on oil exports, fishing, agriculture, and tourism. There is a modern banking system and five large commercial banks in the nation.

There are excellent telecommunications: cell phone service, international cellular roaming service, high speed DSL, and full access to the Internet are widely available in Belize.

There are several major commercial banks in the Belize, which offer a full range of domestic and offshore services. The local currency is the Belize dollar which is tied to the US dollar at an exchange rate of BZ$2.00=US$1.00.

Airlines connect with major international routes through Miami, Houston and New Orleans. All major courier companies service Belize. Direct flights to Belize are available from several major U.S. cities, including Dallas, New York, Atlanta, Denver, and Los Angeles.

Language, Population and Culture

English is the official language of Belize. Official documents are written in English, and courts and government offices operate in English.

Though English is the official language, most people in Belize speak Spanish on a daily basis. The culture is Spanish with British political institutions. Most residents of Belize are of mixed Maya and Spanish ancestry. There is also a large minority of Creoles (people of mixed African and European heritage).

With a population of just 334,297 inhabitants, out of all the Central American countries, Belize has the lowest population density. Growing at just under 2% per year, the country’s population growth rate is one of the highest in the western hemisphere and the second highest in the region.

A substantial North American expatriate community has developed in recent years because of ease of immigration from
the United States and Canada. Belize’s legal system guarantees such basic rights as freedom of speech and religion. Although it is politically stable, Belize has suffered from a high rate of violent crime and drug trafficking in recent years.

Exchange Control

There is no exchange control on offshore business and banking activities in Belize.

Type of Law

As a former British colony, the law of Belize is derived from English Common Law supplemented by local legislation. The court system is also similar to that of England and the final Court of Appeal is the Privy Council in England.
Contract and commercial law is based on English Common Law. Offshore business can be carried out in a taxfree
environment. An IBC cannot carry on business with residents of Belize, or own real estate in Belize.

Principal Corporate Legislation

Offshore corporations in Belize are regulated under the International Business Companies Act of 1990, which was amended in 2000.

It normally takes one business day to incorporate an International Business Corporation (IBC) in Belize provided the name is available. There is no requirement to reveal beneficial ownership to government authorities, and no annual report is required, but companies are required to maintain a registered office in the nation.

An IBC must have at least one shareholder and one director in Belize; there is no requirement for these individuals to be residents of Belize.

Taxation

An IBC based in Belize is not required to pay any tax on its operations outside the country. There is a Business Tax on any enterprise that earns more than $75,000 a year in Belize, but this tax does not apply to income earned outside the country.

Selfemployed individuals that earn more than $20,000 a year are subject to the Business Tax if that revenue comes from activities in Belize. The Business Tax does not apply to income earned by individuals outside of Belize.

All firms that generate income from business activities in Belize have to get a Certificate of Clearance from the Income Tax Department. The Certificate is not required for IBCs as long as they confine their activities to offshore business.