The Caribbean offers some of the most popular tax havens in the world, providing benefits such as very low tax liability and financial privacy. Among the most used Caribbean tax havens are the Bahamas, Panama and the Cayman Islands.
A tax haven is by definition simply a country that offers individuals or businesses little or no tax liability. Many of the Caribbean tax havens are what is known as pure tax havens, in that they impose no taxes at all. A number of Caribbean nations were motivated to become tax havens so they could reduce dependency on foreign countries and maintain their own economies.
1. The Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands is one of the five largest offshore financial centers worldwide, providing services such as offshore banking, offshore trusts and the incorporation of offshore companies. Offshore companies are not taxed on income earned abroad, and there is no taxation of Cayman international business companies (IBCs). The Cayman Islands has no income tax, no corporate tax, no estate or inheritance tax, and no gift tax or capital gains tax, making it a pure tax haven.
The Caymans has very strict banking laws designed to protect banking privacy. The country does not have any tax treaties with other nations, thus guarding the finances of its offshore banking clients from the tax authorities of other countries. Offshore corporations in the Caymans are not required to submit financial reports to any Caymans government authority. Incorporation in the Caymans is a very simple, streamlined process.
There are no exchange controls in the Caymans restricting money transfers in any way. Offshore businesses are not required to pay stamp duty on asset transfers.
The Republic of Panama is considered a very secure pure tax haven. One noteworthy characteristic of Panama offshore jurisdiction law is that offshore companies are allowed to conduct business operations within and outside of the offshore jurisdiction. Offshore Panamanian companies and their owners are not subject to income taxes, corporate taxes or local taxes. People of any nationality can incorporate. Panama strictly protects the privacy of offshore trusts and foundations by law.
As a provider of offshore banking services, Panama has strict banking secrecy laws designed to protect the privacy of account holders. Panama has no tax treaties with any other country and no exchange control laws.
3. The Bahamas
The Bahamas became widely popular as a tax haven in the 1990s after passing legislation that enabled the incorporation of offshore corporations and IBCs. It remains one of the preferred tax havens for residents of the United States and European countries. The Bahamas provides offshore banking, registration of offshore companies, registration of ships and offshore trust management. Offshore companies are not required to submit any accounting records to tax authorities.
The Bahamas was the first Caribbean nation to adopt strict banking secrecy laws. Information on offshore bank account holders can only be disclosed by specific order of the Bahamian Supreme Court. The Bahamas is a pure tax haven, with no tax liability at all for offshore companies or individual offshore bank account holders on income earned outside of the jurisdiction.
4. The British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is an ideal place to establish an offshore bank account. The country does not impose any taxes on offshore accounts, and it has no tax treaties with other nations, thus protecting the financial privacy of bank account holders.
There are no taxes on offshore companies, and BVI IBCs pay no taxes on profits or capital gains generated from outside of the BVI. The only monetary payment an offshore corporation must make to the BVI government is an annual business license fee.
An advantage to offshore banking customers and offshore companies incorporated in the BVI is that there are no exchange controls. This makes it much easier to transfer funds from one place to another for trading and investment purposes while protecting financial privacy.
Often confused with the Dominican Republic, the Commonwealth of Dominica has initiated legislation that facilitates the creation of offshore corporations, trusts and foundations, providing tax-friendly and privacy-protected offshore banking services.
Dominica is a pure tax haven that imposes no income taxes, no corporate taxes and no capital gains tax on income earned abroad. There are also no withholding taxes and no estate taxes, including inheritance taxes or gift taxes. Offshore companies and trusts do not have to pay any stamp duty on transfers of assets. People of any nationality may form offshore corporations in Dominica. The nation has privacy laws that shield the identities of owners and directors of offshore companies incorporated in Dominica.
There is no taxation of interest earned on offshore bank accounts, and information on offshore account holders is not shared with tax authorities of any other country. Dominica's asset protection and financial privacy laws are very strict, making Dominica a secure offshore tax haven.
Nevis, together with St. Kitts, forms the St. Kitts and Nevis Federation. Nevis offers tax-friendly formation of offshore limited liability companies (LLCs), trusts and foundations, along with excellent offshore banking and insurance services.
Nevis provides financial privacy by not making public any information regarding owners and directors of offshore companies. Incorporation in Nevis only requires one director and one shareholder, who can be the same person. A Nevis exempt trust is exempted from taxation on any income earned outside of Nevis, including dividends and interest. Nevis trusts do not have to pay stamp duty on transactions.
Nevis doesn't impose any local taxes on income earned outside of the jurisdiction. Offshore companies and their owners do not have to pay withholding taxes, capital gains taxes or estate taxes, and they are not subject to corporate taxes or local taxes on income generated outside of Nevis.
There are no exchange controls in Nevis, and the country has steadfastly refused to sign any taxation treaties with other countries.
Anguilla is a part of the Britain Overseas Territory, and it has become a respected tax haven. The offshore jurisdiction of Anguilla levies zero taxation on all income generated outside of the jurisdiction by offshore companies. Anguilla is a pure tax haven that does not impose income taxes, estate taxes or capital gains taxes on individuals or corporations.
All offshore entities incorporated in Anguilla are exempt from paying stamp duty.
Anguilla financial legislation strictly protects the privacy of offshore bank accounts and business entities. The Offshore Banking Act of 2005 prohibits all bank employees or agents from disclosing any financial information without the express consent of the account holders. There are no exchange controls regarding monetary or asset transfers.
8. Costa Rica
Costa Rica, bordered by Nicaragua and Panama, is not considered a pure tax haven, but it is recognized as tax-friendly enough to have been referred to as the Switzerland of Central America. Through a number of tax incentives, the country has been extremely successful in attracting some of the world's largest corporations. Companies incorporated in Costa Rica are allowed to conduct business both within and outside of the jurisdiction. No local taxes are imposed on revenue generated by companies that do not conduct business in the jurisdiction. As a business incentive, Costa Rica grants 20-year exemptions from any taxation to many corporations. Corporate entities that are required to pay taxes pay extremely low rates and are generally exempt from taxes on interest, capital gains or dividend income.
Offshore companies incorporated in Costa Rica do not have to file any financial reports with Costa Rican tax authorities. They are not required to disclose the names of owners to the registrar of companies.
Costa Rica tightly protects the privacy of offshore banking. Money or other financial assets can be transferred in or out of Costa Rica without any limitation on the amount – and without having to disclose the source of funds.
Belize offers offshore banking and easy incorporation of offshore companies or formation of trusts or foundations. Offshore businesses incorporated in Belize do not pay any taxes on income earned abroad. Belize incorporated companies and trusts are exempt from paying stamp duty.
Offshore bank accounts are not taxed on earned interest, nor subject to repatriation or capital gains taxes. Banking legislation guarantees strict confidentiality for offshore banking. The names of account holders and any other financial information can only be disclosed by court order in relation to a criminal investigation. Belize does not have any exchange controls, nor does it have any tax treaties with foreign governments. The government of Belize is strongly committed to protecting financial privacy.
Barbados offers a thriving offshore financial sector providing offshore banking, incorporation of offshore corporations and exempt insurance.
Barbados is not a pure tax haven, but it is a very low-tax environment for offshore corporations incorporated in Barbados. Taxes on profits of offshore companies are generally in the range of only 1% to 2%, and the tax rate decreases as the profits earned increase. Offshore companies can import necessary machinery or business equipment without paying any import duty.
There are no withholding taxes or capital gains taxes. Unlike most Caribbean tax havens, Barbados does have double taxation treaties with a number of other countries, including Canada and the U.S.