The Commonwealth of the Bahamas owes its tax haven status to its tax- and business-friendly laws for foreign investors. This is because citizens of the Bahamas and resident aliens pay no taxes on personal income, inheritance, gifts or capital gains.

The Bahamas is an international center for banking activities that attracts foreign financial institutions because of its reputation for stability. A parliamentary democracy of the Bahamas has governed the island nation continuously for over 280 years.

Offshore Financial Institutions in the Bahamas

More than 250 banks and trust companies representing 25 countries are licensed to do business in the Bahamas. Bahamian laws protect the right to privacy of bank clients. Strict Bahamian laws also prohibit illicit financial activity, such as money laundering. The Central Bank of The Bahamas regulates foreign financial entities by providing a secure environment for banks specializing in private banking, mutual fund administration and portfolio management.

Financial institutions doing business in the Bahamas represent the United States, Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Japan. Major international accounting firms, including Deloitte Touche, Tohmatsu Limited, KPMG International Cooperative and PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited have offices in Nassau.

Offshore Companies in the Bahamas

The Bahamas offers foreign companies seeking a tax haven the convenience of easily setting up a business entity. The most popular business entity for foreign individuals and businesses is the international business company (IBC).

Bahamian IBCs do not have to pay corporate tax unless the revenue is derived locally. IBCs are also exempt from stamp and estate duties and other taxes for 20 years from their incorporation date. The benefits of IBCs established in the Bahamas also include exemptions from corporate reporting requirements and shareholder privacy. IBCs are required to list one director and shareholder but do not have to reveal the names of additional shareholders on the public record.

Sole Proprietorships for Foreign Investors

Bahamian law allows foreign investors to establish businesses as sole proprietors. Investors need to obtain a business license and register their businesses under the Business Names Act, but do not pay fees to meet these requirements.

Foreign sole proprietors also enjoy the same tax exemptions as foreign individuals and business entities. Investors must get approval from the Bahamas Investment Authority for business ventures, as some business areas are reserved for Bahamian citizens.

Real Estate Tax

Foreign investors can buy property in the Bahamas without restrictions. The government levies a graduated stamp tax on all real estate transactions. The stamp tax is between 4 and 10%, and is split between the buyer and seller. Property tax on investment properties is based on assessed value. For investment properties valued under $500,000 Bahamian dollars, the tax rate is 1%. The tax rate is 2% for properties of more than $500,000. There is a maximum annual property tax of $50,000.