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The Cayman Islands are three Caribbean islands in Central America with area of 264 km2, situated close to Florida, Cuba and Jamaica. It is a British overseas territory, which is not, however, a member of the European Union, and is not governed by Community law. The legal system is based on common law, complemented with local regulations. Despite being subject to the British crown, the country is enjoying broad autonomy both with regard to economic and social issues. It cannot make independent decisions only on the matters of foreign policy and defence.
The Cayman Islands is one of the biggest banking centres in the world, with almost active 300 banks and almost 800 insurance companies. Numerous international companies have their seats and branches here, including all of the so-called Big Four, and all this due to attractive legal and tax system. It should also be mentioned that the Cayman Islands is a very well-developed country with excellent transport and telecommunications network, with high standard of living. The country is also one of the safest places in the region. All this create very good conditions for doing business and many companies get registered here every year.
The official language is English and the official currency is Cayman dollar (KYD) pegged to American dollar (1.227 USD is 1KYD).
Company law in the Cayman Islands is based on British Companies Act of 1948. Company activity is regulated by the following acts: Companies Law 1961, Companies Law (2007 Revision), Companies (Amendment) (No 2) Law 2009, Companies (Amendment) Law 2011, Companies (Amendment) Law 2013.
Commercial companies law, even though it is based on British common law, was accompanied with local legal provisions which change and modify common law in many respects.
In the Cayman Islands, it is possible to establish three types of companies: regular, foreign and exempted. The most often chosen type of company is the latter, which gives foreign investors the biggest opportunities and profits, being a classic model of an offshore company.
Each exempted company has to be registered by a licenced agent and have a registered office in the territory of the Cayman Islands.
Exempted company has to have a name which may end with the words Limited, Ltd., Corporation, Corp., Incorporated, Inc, etc. The words that are forbidden are: Assurance, Bank, Trust, Insurance, Chartered, Company Management, Mutual Fund and Chamber of Commerce. Also, the name cannot be the same as the name of an already existing company or be remarkably similar.
Exempted companies may have share capital in any amount and it may be paid in any currency. As share capital amount translates into the amount of the government fee, it is prevalent to set up companies with share capital below 50 000 USD. Exempted companies may issue shares with or without par value, with or without voting rights. Bearer shares are also permitted, yet in this case they need to be held by a licenced custodian acknowledged by Caymanian monetary authorities.
To form a company, you only need one director, one shareholder and one secretary, who may be physical or legal persons. Each function may be performed by one person. Cayman Islands Exempt Companies may be set up by non-residents and foreign companies. Shareholder liability is limited to the amount of owned shares. Director and shareholder data is not reported to the register office and is not made public.
The companies may only operate abroad and may not cooperate with entities that perform business activity in the Cayman Islands.
Cayman Islands Exempt Companies may conduct virtually any kind of activity except sectors that require licences – banks, insurance companies, trusts, etc.
The Cayman Islands is a model example of tax haven and companies registered here do not pay any taxes – there is no tax on income, capital gains, dividend, inheritance and donation, real estate. Caymanian government guarantees that regulations regarding tax matters will remain unchanged for 20 years from company registration, which allows long-term planning of business operations. The guarantee may be extended by another 10 years.
In place of taxation, there is a fixed government fee depending on the share capital amount and looks as follows:
Share capital does not exceed 50000 USD – 854 USD
Share capital from 50 000 USD to 1 million USD -1 220 USD
Share capital from 1 to 2 million USD – 2 420 USD
Each January, Cayman Islands Exempt Companies have to submit annual return in the form of a report confirming the company is operating outside the territory of the country and carries out legal activity. Annual return has to be kept at the company’s registered office.
Exempt Companies also have to keep accounting books and store accounting documents and agreements for 5 years under pain of a 5 000 USD penalty (pursuant to Companies (Amendment) Law 2010).
The Cayman Islands is one of the Caribbean countries where life is the best. Average income is 47 000 KYD, and GDP per capita is 49000 USD, which ranks 14th in the world.
The main sources of income are tourism and financial services, including providing services to the companies registered here, and they greatly outnumber the population and new ones appear every year.
The country is one of the world’s leading financial centres, with the fifth largest banking sector (over 1.5 million dollars in bank liabilities). All Big Four companies have their representative offices here, a sign that services here are of the highest quality.
The Cayman Islands is also a country of cheap flag, where numerous ships, boats and yachts are registered every year.
As the country has no personal or corporate income tax or capital gains tax, the main source of state income are indirect taxes.
The Cayman Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, where the head of state is British Queen Elisabeth II. On behalf of the Queen, power is exercised by the Governor. The Cayman Islands does not constitute an integral part of the United Kingdom, nor is it a member of the European Union. The country enjoys great freedom both with respect to political and economic matters, yet it cannot independently decide on the issues related to defence or foreign affairs.
The Cayman Islands enjoys political stability and is not entangled in any international conflicts, which makes an excellent environment for doing business.
The small country is the fifth largest banking centre in the world, with many banks registered there. Regulation and supervision over the financial sector is exercised by Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA).
The banking system here is stable and assets deposited in accounts are safe. Moreover, as you may expect from a financial centre, banks care about their clients’ privacy, guaranteeing high level of confidentiality.
The biggest international banks, local banks as well as typical offshore banks operate in the Cayman Islands.
All companies are equal before the law.
A good formation agent is what makes a difference.
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Michal has completed a master degree in law at University of Lublin as well as postgraduate studies at University of Warsaw with specialization company law. Currently he is a legal counsel trainee. At ShelfCompanies24.com Michał is responsible for preparation of company registry documents as well as other legal advice.