BVI Financial Services Commission has published the thirty-second volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, comprising statistics and other important information on financial services industry in the British Virgin Islands during the three months period ended September 2013. In the reported period, 12,809 Business Companies were incorporated in the jurisdiction, an increase if compared to 12,478 companies in the second quarter of 2013, and less than 16,251 companies incorporated in the same quarter of 2012. Cumulative number of companies registered in the BVI as at 30 September 2013 was 480,072. Also, there were 16 Limited Partnerships and 23 Private Trust Companies registered in BVI in Q3 2013, as compared to 33 and 16, respectively, in the previous quarter of this year. There were 908 Limited Partnerships and 556 Private Trust Companies registered in the jurisdiction at the end of this quarter.
In the sector of Banking and Fiduciary Services, there were 2 entities (trusts) licensed in the third quarter of 2013. In Investment Business, 39 new licenses were granted, as compared to 30 in the second quarter of 2013, and 29 in the third quarter of 2012. In Insolvency Services industry, there were 25 Insolvency Practitioners.
In the sphere of Legal and Enforcement and International Cooperation, there were 16 Formal and 4 Informal Requests for International Co-operation, and 44 Enforcement Matters registered. There were also 94 Ongoing Supervision Matters referred to the Licensing and Supervisory Committee and related to Banking and Fiduciary Services; also, 299 related to Investment Business, 47 related to Insurance, and 2 related to Insolvency Services. There were 3 Onsite Inspections in Q3 2013, all of them related to Trust Companies.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Martin Crawford, chief executive of Offshore Incorporations Ltd, has referred to the status of the British Virgin Islands jurisdiction as the leading one for Chinese investors and entrepreneurs, during the China Offshore Summit recently held in Shanghai and attended by more than 350 Chinese wealth planners, bankers, lawyers, and offshore professionals.
In his presentation he named the reasons why the BVI is the most complete jurisdiction for the needs of Chinese investors, among them opportunities for non tax-driven structures such as asset protection, wealth management, funds management, investment holdings, trading, special purpose vehicles, and listing vehicles for IPOs. It was stated by him as an example that 60 per cent of the multi-million dollar London properties, owned by Chinese citizens, were purchased through BVI entities.
The chief executive of one of offshore industry leaders made his presentation on behalf of the BVI International Finance Centre (BVI IFC), platinum sponsor of the summit. Christopher McKenzie, representative of BVI law firm O'Neal Webster, promoted BVI trusts on a panel discussion titled Strategies for Family Business Succession, while Janice Skelton of Newhaven Corporate Services described the benefits of the BVI on a panel on Selecting Jurisdictions for Chinese Private Wealth Management. Barry Mitchell and Charlie Sparrow of law firm Maples and Calder presented on the benefits of BVI Trusts for Asian IPOs. On the second day, there was a two-hour special feature on the BVI jurisdiction, which included presentations and panel discussions under the theme BVI: The Complete Offshore Solution. There was also an update on BVI House Asia, established in Hong Kong this year.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
BVI House Asia, which was opened in Hong Kong by the British Virgin Islands in September this year, launched a series of seminars focused on the financial services products of the offshore jurisdiction.
The first seminar was devoted to BVI trust and estate law, and was led by Christopher McKenzie - a partner from O'Neal Webster law firm, who has chaired the STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) committee responsible for making the proposals to the BVI government to make trust innovations of 2003 and 2013. Case studies on BVI trusts in practice were also presented by Maples and Calder’s lawyers.
The seminar focused on the unique features of BVI trust legislation, including VISTA (Virgin Islands Special Trusts Act) that creates a special trust regime and is very popular in Asia and particularly in Hong Kong. Another focus of the presentations was the PTC Regulations, enabling unlicensed BVI companies to be set up as a confidential way of holding trust assets.
According to the director of BVI House Asia, Lorna Smith, this seminar is a precursor to the type of activities that will be put on by BVI House Asia in Hong Kong and Asia to provide updates and education on BVI's financial services products to the practitioners in the region.
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
British Virgin Islands Premier and Minister of tourism, Dr Orlando Smith made visit to Brazil to introduce the territory to the leading tour operators, travel agents and media. During the week’s time, together with BVI Tourist Board representatives the premier visited Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, had meetings with more than 200 travel agents and presented the BVI destination, sharing the ideas of what makes it unique and attractive as a choice holiday vacation.
The BVI delegation also hosted a dinner for owners of ten major tour operators, a cocktail presentation evening for Travel Week Rio, a lunch for editors and journalists of top media houses in Sao Paolo.
By words of director of tourism, Sharon Flax-Mars, “This is an opportune time for the British Virgin Islands to be promoted in South America… Our presence will enable us to increase awareness of the BVI and our visibility between Brazil, Argentina and Mexico which will ultimately lead to more arrivals from these countries.”
Friday, November 01, 2013
Mark Simmonds, the UK Minister for Overseas Territories, in his comments in response to a question from MP Martin Horwood on the issue of international standards endorsed the strength of the BVI independent regulator, the Financial Services Commission (FSC). He named it “an extremely impressive regulator who wants to ensure that the British Virgin Islands has the highest possible international reputation.” He also said: “The (BVI) regulator wants it to be seen as a well regulated jurisdiction in order to encourage, rather than inhibit or hinder, further investment.”
Mark Simmonds also mentioned the “extremely positive” engagement by the Overseas Territories on the issue of tax transparency. His statement actually followed David Cameron’s praise of the UK Overseas Territories for the actions taken to ensure the highest standards of tax transparency. Cameron said that it was no longer fair to refer to the BVI and other similar jurisdictions as ‘tax havens’.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Sir Richard Branson, British entrepreneur and investor, named by Forbes as Britain’s sixth richest resident this year, and best known as the founder of Virgin Group which includes more than 400 companies, has revealed that he had been a tax exile to the BVI for the last years.
Branson moved his main residence to the private island in the British Virgin Islands. This island, named Necker, was bought by the businessman in 1979, and has become his tax base. Now he can spend in the United Kingdom only 46 to 183 days a year. As a non-resident, he must pay tax on UK income but not on any personal earnings outside of Britain. His companies are paying corporation tax.
Branson commented on his decision to move to the Caribbean island, saying it is done for the sake of his health rather than for tax reasons.
Branson’s fortune is estimated at £3.5bn, now he earns about US$11m a year, and donates much of his income to the Virgin Unite charity, which supports entrepreneurs around the world. He does not take dividends from Virgin Group Holdings, which owns his stakes in the Virgin operating companies and is registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Friday, October 11, 2013
The BVI Financial Services Commission has published the 31st volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, informing about financial services activities in the Territory in the second quarter of 2013. In the period ended June 30, 2013, 12,478 new companies were formed, compared to 16,666 in the previous quarter of this year, and to 15,200 incorporations in the second quarter of 2012. Cumulative number of active business companies at the end of Q2 2013 was 457,151. Also, the Registry of Corporate Affairs reported of 16 Limited Partnerships and 33 Private Trust Companies formed in the second quarter of 2013.
According to Banking and Fiduciary Sector statistics, 2 entities were licensed in the BVI jurisdiction in the three months period, both of them trusts, and the total number of licensed entities was 234 as at 30 June 2013. Banking sector also reported the following fiscal results for commercial banks in the second quarter of the year (in US$ thousands): total assets - $2,470,458, deposits - $1,871,986, total shareholders’ equity was $372,570, operating income - $45,799, and net income - $24,663.
In Investment Business Sector, 4 new Investment Business Licences were granted and 6 Investment Managers approved in the three months period. Also, 30 new Mutual Funds were licensed (21 of them Professional, and 9 Private), as compared to 39 newly licensed Mutual funds in the first quarter of 2013, and 22 funds in the second quarter of the previous year. Cumulative number of Mutual Funds as at 30 June 2013 was 2,277.
In the second quarter of the year, there were 24 Formal Requests in the sphere of International Cooperation, as well as 4 formal, and 51 Enforcement Matters. In Investment Business sector, 280 Ongoing Supervision Matters were reviewed by the Licensing and Supervisory Committee; 94 Matters referred to LSC related to Banking and Fiduciary Services, 28 related to Insurance, and 4 – to Insolvency Services.
Monday, September 30, 2013
Last week, BVI FSC published a document named ‘Guidelines for Authorised Representatives Under the Securities and Investment Business Act (September 2013)’, where provided information and guidelines about functions of Authorised Representatives, their qualifying procedure, reporting requirements, and other issues. The document, published on the home page of the Commission, was approved by the Board of Commissioners on 27 August, and issued by the FSC on 10 September, 2013.
In accordance with the Securities and Investment Business Act, 2010 (“SIBA”), every licensee and public, private, professional or recognized foreign fund is required to appoint an Authorised Representative, who will act as the main intermediary between the licensee or fund and the BVI FSC. The issued Guidelines define the procedures and the proper criteria for qualifying to act as an Authorised Representative, how an application to act as an Authorised Representative must be made, and submitted to the Commission. They also inform about the beneficial ownership structure of an Authorised Representative to be certified and properly supervised by the Commission.
It is provided by the Guidelines that a person certified as an Authorised Representative must be independent, meaning, for example, that it may not carry out any other services except for those associated with the provision of services as an Authorised Representative. Also, an Authorised Representative must be based in the British Virgin Islands, and everyday functions of the Authorised Representative must be carried out by individuals resident in the Territory.
The Guidelines state the functions and responsibilities of an Authorised Representative, as outlined in SIBA, human resource requirements, and those concerning general reporting and financial statements.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
The British Virgin Islands jurisdiction has invited a specialist in the United States Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which is now being discussed by the U.S. and BVI governments. The specialist will make special presentations to individuals affected by the US law. Financial Secretary Mr Neil Smith stated in his comments that specialist’s visit has the purpose of informing residents on their individual obligations under FATCA. He said: "What is important to note, is that FATCA gives the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a new mechanism to collect information on US citizens that are not properly filing US income tax returns and reporting their bank accounts. The government really wants to ensure US citizens in the BVI are aware of their general US tax filing requirements."
A few months ago, the BVI government commissioned professional services firm KPMG to carry out a study on FATCA, to highlight the persons who may be exempt from reporting under the law, and for better comprehension of obligations of individuals who are not exempt from compliance with the law.
Friday, September 13, 2013
The jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands has launched Hong Kong office, which will have the functions of representing BVI in mainland China and the entire Asia Pacific region. The official opening of “BVI House Asia” was hosted by the British Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau Caroline Wilson, and took place on September 5 at the British Consulate. The event was attended by up to 100 HK professionals, as well as by leading financial services practitioners and representatives of several governments, including Hong Kong, the United States, European Union, Switzerland and Ireland.
BVI House Asia will facilitate a smooth interface between the industry in Asia and the BVI; it will allow responding to enquiries of a social, political or economic nature from the region, and promoting China’s and HK investments into the BVI economy. Other functions of the BVI office in Hong Kong will be to provide quick access for certain information services to users of BVI business companies, and to develop the relationship of the BVI with mainland China not only in financial areas but also in the spheres of education and culture.
Through the BVI Financial Services Commission (BVI FSC), BVI House will help strengthen ties with regional government authorities. In the next few months, the Commission will also provide resources for the House, including staff, which currently includes of the interim director and a chief operating officer Heather Tang.
Thursday, September 05, 2013
In the end of August, international accounting and financial consulting firm Deloitte announced the merger of its BVI, USVI, and Bermuda practices. It is said to bring enhanced services to clients and greater access to Deloitte professionals who provide insights and solutions to complex business challenges.
The company also informed that the practices will continue to operate as Deloitte & Touche Services Ltd, from the current offices in the British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands, providing tax, consulting, financial advisory and audit services. The company does not plan to close offices, and each of them will have local leadership.
The merger combination, effective from August 26, coincides with the retirement of BVI/USVI office managing partner Mark Chapman, who will continue as a consultant to the company through the end of October. Mark Chapman joined Deloitte BVI in 1995, and focused on offshore enterprises in the financial services sector. Now the British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands offices will be operated by Carlene Romney, who is specialist in financial services audits, and Richard White, an experienced professional with over 13 years of working in practice and industry as a chartered accountant.
Speaking about the merger of practices, Carlene Romney stated that Deloitte’s clients, communities and professionals will benefit from it, as the company will be able “to deliver additional services, especially in areas such as tax, restructuring, and risk management.”
Monday, August 26, 2013
The British Virgin Islands jurisdiction has started to discuss the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) with the US Department of the Treasury. According to BVI Premier Orlando Smith, who told this to reporters on August 20, 2013, the territory is talking about the “intergovernmental agreement” with the US to comply with FATCA.
The Premier expressed the opinion that this course of action is the best for the BVI, and noted that its financial services industry complies with it.
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act provides that the Inland Revenue Service obtains information on accounts of US taxpayers, held abroad at foreign financial institutions. If foreign financial institutions fail to disclose information on their US clients, account ownership, and changes on the account balance, it will result in the requirement to withhold 30 percent tax on US source income.
In August, the Cayman Islands has concluded negotiations with the United States on agreements for automatic information exchange under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, and Bermuda and the Bahamas have also expressed their intention to comply with FATCA.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
According to the Tax-news, Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes issued peer review reports assessing tax systems of thirteen countries, including BVI, for information exchange. These reviews are to become part of the ratings of 50 jurisdictions, in compliance with G20 and Global Forum efforts to strengthen tax cooperation.
All the reports assess the commitment of the jurisdictions to the international requirements for tax information exchange. Of these 13 reports, 11 are “Phase 2” reports covering the exchange of information in Austria, Bermuda, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, India, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Qatar, San Marino and The Bahamas. Two are “Phase 1” reports, concerning Israel and Lithuania, looking at the legal and regulatory framework for transparency and exchange of information.
The Chair of the Global Forum Kosie Louw, of the South African Revenue Service, welcomed the reports noting: "The Global Forum is applying pressure on all jurisdictions to implement the standard and co-operate effectively in tax information exchange. The publication of the ratings later this year will be a crucial moment for all those committed to fighting cross-border tax evasion."
Friday, August 09, 2013
According to the Department of Industry of Nepal, the amount of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the economy of the country increased by 163% in year 2012/2013, as compared to the previous fiscal year. In 2012/2013, 275 joint venture companies were registered in the country. They have committed to make investment of Rs 18.84 billion, while in 2011/2012 FDI commitment was Rs 7.14 billion.
British Virgin Islands is at the top of the list of countries investing in Nepal, in terms of commitment amount, with investment commitment of Rs 4.49 billion. The BVI is followed by Hong Kong with investment commitment of Rs 3.07 billion, and India with as much as Rs 2.45 billion. In terms of number of companies, China is on the leading position with 87 joint ventures, followed by India. Most of FDI from China and Hong Kong are in the sector of hydropower projects and infrastructure development.
Thursday, August 01, 2013
According to a report from Appleby Global, one of the world’s largest providers of offshore legal, fiduciary and administration services. the British Virgin Islands jurisdiction “continues to dominate” by the volume of new offshore company registrations, with a six-fold lead over the Cayman Islands, which is the nearest comparator of the BVI.
The Group’s latest On the Register Report is devoted to the analysis of company incorporations in the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Crown Dependencies, Mauritius and Seychelles, and how activity in these offshore jurisdictions compares to financial centres such as the UK and Hong Kong.
Appleby stated in the release that the number of new offshore company registrations decreased both in the BVI and the Cayman Islands in the second half of 2012, with a 12% drop to 29,225 new company registrations in the British Virgin Islands, and 13% drop to 4,176 new registrations in the Cayman Islands. Appleby reported an overall decrease of 3.6% in company incorporation activity in the major offshore markets in the second half of 2012, indicating the impact of uncertain global economic conditions on the majority of the offshore markets.
By words of Farah Ballands, the partner and global head of fiduciary & administration services at Appleby, “There are signs that 2013 will be a watershed year in terms of seeing a universal return to pre-2009 activity levels across the offshore jurisdictions.”
Monday, July 15, 2013
According to the press release issued by the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission, twenty-five European securities regulators signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) concerning consultation, cooperation and the exchange of information related to the supervision of Alternative Investment Fund Managers with the BVI FSC.
The MOU signed in May 2013 was negotiated and approved by European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), and provided for the supervision of alternative investment funds, including hedge funds, private equity funds and real estate funds. The signings ensure that the BVI Mutual Fund Industry will be able to market its products within the European Union.
It was stated in the press release that the Commission had been negotiating with ESMA since April 2012, and through its participation in the process, is confident that the MOU represents a balanced approach, and is pleased to have executed the agreements which demonstrate the recognition and importance of BVI funds in the global industry.
Friday, July 05, 2013
The British Financial Services Commission has published the regular volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing statistics and analysis of financial services industry activities in the jurisdiction in the first quarter of the year, ended March 31, 2013. According to the information of the Registry of Corporate Affairs, 16,666 new companies were incorporated in this period, as compared to 14,783 in the fourth quarter of 2012, and 17,865 in the first quarter of 2012. Cumulative number of active companies incorporated in the BVI at the end of Q1 2013 was 482,747. Also, there were 565 Limited Partnerships and 1,061 Private Trust Companies registered in BVI by the end of the reported period.
Banking and Fiduciary Services sector shows the following figures for commercial banks in the first quarter of 2013 (in US$ thousands): total assets made $2,436,445, deposits made $1,809,321, total shareholders’ equity was $416,240, operating income was $24,982, and net income was $13,673.
In Investment business, 10 new Investment Business Licences were granted in the first quarter of the year (6 in Q4 2012, and 16 in Q1 2012), and 39 Mutual Funds were licensed (27 in Q4 2012 and 32 in Q1 2012). Cumulative number of Investment Business Licences as of 31 March 2013 was 530, and cumulative number of Mutual Funds was 2303.
According to Insolvency Services statistics, total number of Insolvency Practitioners in Q1 2013 was 23, the same as in the fourth and the first quarters of 2012. In the Insurance business sector, two insurance licences (1 captive and 1 domestic) were granted in the reported period, making the cumulative number of licences in this industry to achieve 229.
As concerns Legal and Enforcement and International Cooperation statistics, there were totally 32 Enforcement Actions during the first three months of the year, including Advisory Warnings, Directives, Administrative Penalties, etc. Other information, including statistics on Ongoing Supervision and Onsite Inspections, can be found on the website of BVI FSC.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Last week, Premier and Minister of Finance of the British Virgin Islands Orlando Smith returned from London and gave his comments on G8 Tax Statement, confirming his support of the UK government’s global agenda on tax, transparency and trade, and his agreement to take an active part in the new initiative of multilateral automatic tax information exchange agreed upon by the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. The BVI Premier also confirmed the plans to prepare national actions to meet the FATF standards on beneficial ownership, and to join the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance on Tax Matters.
Orlando Smith noted in his comments: “In the debate about tax and transparency the fact that the BVI already has stronger financial regulation for trust and corporate service providers, as well as rules regarding beneficial ownership than many countries in the G8 itself, has not been adequately appreciated… For many years we have implemented the highest international standards on transparency, accountability and information exchange on tax matters, as set out by the OECD. The BVI will continue to be a constructive partner in evolving and setting the highest standards of regulation.”
Monday, June 17, 2013
Premier and Minister of Finance of the British Virgin Islands, Orlando Smith, has accepted the invitation to attend two meetings in London on June 15.
These meetings are hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron before the G8 meeting. During the first meeting, the BVI Premier is having an open consultation with the UK Prime Minister, together with leaders from all UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, while the second meeting is the discussion on the key issues of the G8 summit, including tax, trade and transparency, and involves a range of stakeholders, including representatives from Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.
The BVI Premier said in a letter sent to David Cameron that the jurisdiction will in principle commit to joining the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance on Tax Matters - a multilateral agreement having the aim to promote international cooperation to combat tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
Speaking about the meeting, the BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith welcomed the invitation from David Cameron for consultation, and expressed Government’s support for the G8 agenda on tax, trade and transparency and trust that the G8 members will see the value of, and accept the need for, establishing global standards."
Thursday, June 13, 2013
On May 30-31, 2013, the seventh meeting of the EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) Task Force on Trade and Investment was organized in the British Virgin Islands with participation of Caribbean Export Development Agency as chair of the CARIFORUM, and French Caribbean Outermost Region (FCOR). During these two days, the members of the task force were examining key developments that have taken place in 2010-2012 and have related to the CARIFORUM-EU relationship, including an update on the CARIFORUM-EU partnership strategy, deliberations in the CARIFORUM-EU EPA institutions and an update on EDF programming.
The EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) Task Force on Trade and Investment is promoting dialogue on issues related to trade and investment, and assisting with the projects between CARIFORUM states and the French Caribbean region, which is part to the European Partnership Agreement through its political status with the French Republic.
At the opening of the Trade and Investment task force meeting, BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith said: “Although BVI has only observer status in the organisation we are proud to be part of a forward moving process and congratulate the region for being able to move forward with the European Partnership Agreements (EPA) with the European Union (EU).”
Thursday, June 06, 2013