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Antigua and Barbuda
The country gained independence from the United Kingdom on 1 November 1981, becoming a member of the Commonwealth. Antigua and Barbuda is a constitutional monarchy, and the official head of state is British Queen Elisabeth II, represented by the Governor-General. The country has a stable political system and good economic situation. From the British, Antigua inherited a legal system based on common law principles, with stable judiciary. The legal code guarantees protection of investors, creating very good environment for doing business. The country is very highly valued in terms of execution of agreements and protection of investors, which is not commonplace in Latin America.
Antigua and Barbuda is also one of the safest places in the Caribbean, with low level of crime and high level of respect for the rule of law.
Education level is high, which translates into the quality of the services provided in tourism, IT and telecommunications services, financial services or construction.
The official language is English, and the official currency is Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD).
Antigua is one of the classic offshore countries offering financial services of the highest standard. The government is cooperating with the private sector to establish guidelines on the best corporate management practices.
Antigua is a great location for setting up a company providing services on the international market, as companies formed by foreigners enjoy exemption from income tax (provided income is generated abroad) for the period of 50 years of company formation. Moreover, companies are registered quickly, there is no currency control or reporting obligations both on the part of companies and shareholders.
The backbone of the economy is tourism, while the second place is taken by financial services and servicing foreign companies that are registered here.
The most popular type of company among foreign investors is International Business Corporation (IBC), whose activity is regulated by International Business Corporations Act (IBC Act) of 1982, as amended, and Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FRSC).
IBCs may conduct business operations only outside the territory of Antigua and Barbuda. However, they have to have an office in the territory of the country and be registered by a licenced agent.
IBC has to have at least one shareholder, who may be both a physical and a legal person, and there is no requirement for them to be residents of Antigua and Barbuda. Shareholder data is not reported to the register (FSRC), which guarantees high level of privacy. IBC may issue shares with or without par value. Bearer shares are allowed as well.
International Business Corporation has to have at least one director who may but does not have to be a shareholder. This may be both a private person and a company. Director data, as in the case of shareholders, is not public.
There is no requirement to appoint officers, but it is a common practice to appoint at least one secretary who has to be a physical person. Officers are appointed by the management board and report to it.
There is no requirement with regard to minimum share capital, the requirement only concerns the licenced sectors. Most types of business activity do not require a licence. The licenced sectors are banks, insurance companies, casinos and betting services and trust services. In this case, information on shareholders and directors is reported to the register.
Every company has to have a unique name. The name cannot include the words: bank, insurance, trust, or terms that may be misleadingly suggest the company is linked to the government.
IBCs are easy to manage, as shareholder and management board meetings may take place both in the territory of the country and outside its borders, yet they have to take place at least once a year. There is no obligation to submit annual financial statements (with the exception of companies that require licence).
Antigua is unquestionably a tax haven, even though corporate tax on the companies operating in the territory of the country is 25%. Owners of International Business Corporations (IBCs) for 50 years are entitled to tax credit on all income obtained abroad, so they do not pay income tax, capital gains tax, share transfer tax, stock exchange tax or tax on incomes and donations. There is no obligation to prepare annual financial reports either. The obligation is imposed solely on the companies conducting licenced activity.
Accounting is obligatory on a basic level, but it is not subject to audit.
Antigua and Barbuda’s economic policy is within the competence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority takes care of promoting both international and domestic investments.
The key sector of the economy is services, next there is industry and construction. Foreign investment and the financial sector have the biggest impact on the economy. The country is commonly regarded as one of the biggest financial centres in the Caribbean, mainly due to offshore services.
Antigua and Barbuda is a member of CARIBCAN and a signee to the Lomé Convention which facilitate trade exchange with USA, EU and Canada.
Antigua and Barbuda is a constitutional monarchy with Westminster system of government. The official head of state is British Queen Elisabeth II represented by the Governor-General.
The legal system of the country was regulated by the constitution of 1981 introduced after gaining independence from the United Kingdom. In Antigua and Barbuda there is a common law system, taken from the British law.
The legislative power is exercised by the parliament consisting of two chambers – House of Representatives, chosen in general elections, and Senators elected by the Governor-General. Each chamber consists of 17 members. The Prime Minister and Government members come from House of Representatives. In the Parliament, there is also a guaranteed seat for a representative of the biggest opposition party.
The executive power is exercised by the government chaired by the Prime Minister who dismisses and appoints ministers. Antigua and Barbuda has a stable, independent judiciary as well. It was incorporated into the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States judiciary system. There are magistrates' courts, Industrial Court and High Court. You may appeal against their decisions to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, while the highest court of appeal is Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
The banking sector is a very significant element of the economy of Antigua and Barbuda, where the biggest global banks, such as Bank of America (Bank of Antigua), Barclays, The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Scotia Bank, have their seats. Besides international banks, there are also local and offshore banks.
Assets deposited in accounts are safe. Majority of banks offer multi-currency accounts with access to English-language online banking.
All companies are equal before the law.
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