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The BVI comprises 40 islands with the majority of the 16,000 population residing on the island of Tortola, the location of the territory’s capital Road Town.
The islands are a British Dependent Territory with the present constitution being set up in 1967.
The legal system is based on that of the UK, and this, combined with its very stable political and economic environment, makes the BVI the most popular of the Caribbean offshore jurisdictions.
The UK appoints a governor who is responsible for foreign affairs, internal security, the civil service and legal matters.
English is the main language and the US dollar is the official currency.
Offshore companies are governed by the International Business Companies Ordinance of 1984 (as amended) which created the International Business Company (IBC). There is one type of company under the Ordinance which allows engagement in any lawful business, except:
Any name is generally available for incorporation in the BVI provided that it does not contain any sensitive words and is not similar to an existing name. The name must include either the word ‘Limited’, ‘Corporation’ or ‘Incorporated’.
Share capital may be nominal or par value, and issued in any currency. Shares may be registered or bearer. The standard authorised capital used is US$50,000 which equates to the minimum annual licence fee of US$300. At least one share should be in issue at all times.
There must be at least one director, who may be an individual or a corporation. Directors need not be BVI residents. An IBC is not obliged to file the names of its directors in any public register, although it may do so if evidence of their identity is required. Appointment of a company secretary is optional.
There must be a registered office in the BVI and a local resident agent. There is no requirement to file an annual return or annual accounts in the BVI. Companies incorporated between January and June pay their annual licence fee by 31 May while those incorporated in the second half of the year have to pay it by the 30 November. Late filing penalties are charged for non-compliance.
An attractive feature of the IBC legislation are provisions allowing a foreign corporation to re-domicile in the BVI as an IBC without termination of its legal existence. Specific information is available on request.
An IBC is exempt from all BVI income taxes and stamp duties, even though the company may be managed, controlled and administered within the BVI.