Starting a business in Belize can be a rewarding and profitable experience. There are many expats who operate at least one business on the island of Ambergris Caye or in some other location within the country. Belize encourages foreign business ownership especially if you employ and train Belizean citizens. Here is a step by step guide to help you understand the bureaucratic and legal process you will encounter when incorporating and registering a new business in Belize.
Select your company name
Your first step is to conduct a name search for your business. I am sure you already have something clever and original picked out. The best way to accomplish this is to visit the Companies’ Registry in Belmopan and conduct a search of all existing Belizean company names. You can complete this in person in just a few minutes and it is free of charge. If it is more convenient for you to do this via email, telephone, or fax you can do that as well but it will cost you $50 BZD.
Register your company
Now that you have a clever and original name of your business, you must register your company statutes, memorandum, and articles of association at the Companies’ Registry in Belmopan. At least two directors are required for this type of company and each director must own at least one share. For simplicity, each share is worth $1 BZD, thus the minimum start-up capital required for your company is $2 BZD. The documentation that you file must identify all directors and their representatives, if applicable. You must also include company statutes and memorandum and articles of association which can be drawn up by a local legal counsel for a nominal fee.
Apply for trade license
Next you will submit your application for trade license to the local City Council so that they may send an inspector to visit your place of business. Generally speaking, an inspector will be able to come out the following day unless of course he has something better to do. The document you will need to submit this application is your certificate of compliance from the Companies’ Registry which you obtained in step two and proof of residency.
Show up for inspection
Once the city council inspector arrives, inspects and submits findings to the council’s trade license board they will meet to determine what you owe which is usually 25% of the inspector’s assessed annual rental income of the business premises. This assessment notice will be couriered to you. Once you have paid this in full, your license will be hand delivered at no additional charge.
Create a company Seal
Now your company seal must be created. You can have this done at most stationery stores. The cost to have a seal created is around $50 BZD to $200 BZD, depending on whether it is rubber or embossed.
Register your company for business tax
As a founder of the company, you must also register with the income tax authorities prior to conducting business. You will do this by submitting your certificate of compliance and then waiting a week or two to receive your tax number. Your company may begin to operate during this time, but you must withhold taxes payable or you will be assessed penalties and interest.
Register the company for general sales tax
Now you must register your business with the general services tax authorities. This is accomplished by presenting your certificate of compliance and then waiting for a few weeks for final confirmation. You may operate your business during this time but must withhold taxes payable or be assessed penalties and interest.
Register employees with the Social Security Board
Finally, all of your employees must be registered with the social security authorities. Confirmation of this registration will take a few months. You may begin operations of your company in the meantime but do remember that all deductions must be taken during this time or their will be financial consequences.
Congratulations, you’re in business!