The Government of Belize (GOB) has moved swiftly to avoid the threat of being sanctioned by the European Union, by amending the regulations for both the International Financial Services Commission and the International Business Companies (IBC) Act. Minister of Investment, Trade, and Commerce, Hon. Tracy Panton introduced bills with these amendments, which were rushed through their three readings for swift approval with bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives in Belmopan last Friday, March 15th.

The first Bill amended the International Business Companies Act, which is Chapter 270 of the Laws of Belize, to institute a mandatory physical presence by such IBC’s and to provide for the option for a company to meet the physical presence requirements. The second Bill amended the International Financial Services Commission Act, which Chapter 272 of the Laws of Belize, to strengthen the provisions relating to international financial services. The new regulations now set criteria for the physical presence of persons licensed by the Commission, as well as for IBC’s.

Barrow explained the new legislation was to meet new guidelines set out by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Forum on Harmful Tax Practices (FHTP) in its Report of October 2017 had charged Belize with having potentially harmful tax features in our International Business Companies (IBC) Regime. GOB had undertaken to assure the OECD that Belize would amend the regime to remove any such features, and indeed the House passed several amendments to the International Business Companies Act; the Income and Business Tax Act; and Stamp Duty Act last December. It simultaneously passed a new Designated Business Processing Act to replace the Export Processing Zone Act, which had been another sore point with the OECD. This had appeased the FHTP, which upon review, subsequently gave Belize a clean bill of health, and that seemed to be the end of that.

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