Ever since the 1998 national elections, which brought about a tremendous turnover in government, we've been waiting anxiously to see how the new ruling party would make good on its promise to attract foreign capital to Belize. Our expectations have been far exceeded by a new, ground breaking act. The Government of Belize has passed sweeping legislation that promises to be the most substantial enticement ever, to attract retirees to Belize's shores. The Retired Persons (Incentives) Act, 1999, which should come into effect within the next few weeks, will accord tax-exempt status to "Qualified Retired Persons" (QRP), and the right to freely visit and/or reside in Belize, along with their spouses and dependents under age 18.
This Act is to be administered by the Ministry of Tourism. Mr. Dion Pascasio, Assistant Secretary within the Ministry, is the individual responsible for coordinating all the various aspects involved, including the application process. I recently spoke with him to clarify the general details, as well as some finer points.
The essence of the program is that it grants freedom of mobility to these designated individuals. While this special status does not come with any of the benefits of residency or citizenship, neither does it impose any of the obligations of such residency or citizenship. Effectively, it allows the qualified individuals to remain tourists in Belize on an indefinite basis. Mr. Pascasio explained that the Act is in its infancy, and, once implemented, we should fully expect it to be amended and expanded as need and practice dictate.
Who Can Qualify?
Individuals applying for "Qualified Retired Person"
(QRP) status must meet the following requirements:
While there will likely be a nominal application fee, as well as a charge for the special visa that will be issued, the application process is not anticipated to be difficult or time-consuming.
These designated QRPs are permitted, on first entering Belize, to import their personal effects, and a single "approved means of transport," for their personal use, completely tax and duty-free. These approved means of transport are motor vehicles, boats, and light aircraft. This transport may even be replaced every five years, also under concession, provided the previous item was properly disposed of. If these personal effects or means of transport are ever sold or otherwise distributed to another person in Belize, such duties and taxes must be paid immediately. QRPs are permitted to import more than one such item, however, only one will be exempt.
Any income (earned or passive) which comes to a QRP from sources outside Belize is exempt from all taxes and levies. Theoretically, you may be able to qualify as a non-resident in your native country, and therefore be relieved of taxation at home, as well. It remains to be seen how some oppressive tax regimes will deal with that! Another key point of interest in the Act, accords these retired persons to be deemed as "non-residents," with respect to many laws of Belize relating to international financial services, including the Offshore Banking Act, the Trusts Act, and the International Business Companies (IBC) Act. For example, the Trusts Act states that individuals residing in Belize may not be beneficiaries of a Belize Tax-exempt Trust. This means that many business persons who are clients of Belize's offshore industry, may now retire in Belize without losing their non-resident status, and therefore, the benefits of these financial tools.
QRPs, and their dependents, are permitted to carry on business while in Belize, provided such a business deals primarily with activities outside of Belize, and exclusively with non-residents. Neither the QRPs nor their dependents may be gainfully employed within Belize. Should anyone wish to undertake a business venture in the country, they will likely have to entertain the idea of dropping their QRP status and applying for permanent residency. However, Mr. Pascasio informed me that an amendment is likely that would permit some sort of passive investment, as individuals wishing to invest in Belizean interests should be encouraged to do so.
In conclusion, anyone who has considered retiring in Belize, or even just spending their winters here to escape a cold climate back home, will now have a chance to do just that, free from the time-consuming residency requirements and worry of local taxation. These advantages, combined with our wonderful climate, friendly people, and laid-back lifestyle, offer no greater inducement...So, come on down!!
Retirement Incentives Update
Belize's new retirement act is open for business
Now that Belize's Retired Persons (Incentives) Program has been fine tuned and implemented, it's time for an update on the benefits of the program, and an overview of the requirements for qualification.
Although it is not required, applicants may solicit the services of a local attorney or accountant in completing the application process.
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