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Location and infrastructure

Belize is a country on the northeastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala, and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. 

The capital of Belize is Belmopan.


With a population of 334,297, Belize is among the most racially and ethnically diverse countries in the world.


The official language is English, though an English creole (Kriol) and Spanish are more commonly spoken.


The Belize dollar is the official currency in Belize, formerly known as British Honduras; (currency code BZD) is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively BZ$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies.

Tax system

Corporate Tax

On 1 July 1998, income tax on the profits or net earnings of companies and self- employed persons was replaced by a new tax, named ‘business tax’, which is a tax

on gross receipts. The tax is charged as a percentage of gross receipts, without any deductions, and is declared and paid each month to the Tax Department. The rates vary according to the source of the income and range from 0.75% in respect of receipts from radio, on-air television and newspaper business to 25% in respect of management fees, rental of plant and equipment, and charges for technical services paid to a non-resident. 

Effective 1 January 1999, income tax on business profits was reintroduced but revised so that it could co-exist with the business tax regime introduced in 1998. The corporate income tax rate was reduced from its former level of 35% to 25%. The business tax paid is now considered to be a credit towards income tax payable with any excess paid being carried forward as an expense to the next basis (tax) year, provided that an income tax return is duly filed with the Commissioner of Income Tax.

Where the business tax paid is less than the income tax payable, the excess is to be treated as taxes forgone by the Commissioner, provided that an income tax return is duly filed. Tax returns are to be filed with the Belize Tax Administration (Income Tax Department) within three months after the close of the taxpayer’s fiscal year.

There is no need to provide financial statements or any additional supporting schedules to support the tax return submitted. Where losses are incurred, the taxpayer can elect not to accept the business tax and submit a full return which would include financial statements and supporting schedules, with a view to having the losses agreed and relief obtained in the form of tax credits against future business taxes due.

With effect from 1 January 2006, the rate of income tax for companies engaged in petroleum operations was increased from 25% to 40%. Such companies cannot opt to pay business tax instead of income tax.

Subsequent amendments made to date to the Income and Business Tax include the following provisions:

• to introduce a petroleum surcharge on revenues derived from petroleum


• to facilitate tax information exchange agreements with other countries;

• to abolish the withholding tax on royalties and commissions paid to non-


• to vary the rates of business tax on casinos, commissions, real estate business

and utilities that provide telecommunication services.

General Sales Tax

Effective 1 July 2006, the ‘sales tax’ which was in force was repealed and replaced by a general sales tax (GST). GST is effectively a value added tax, with tax becoming payable at each stage in the supply chain and with tax incurred on inputs being recoverable by offset against GST charged by a business to customers on taxable supplies.

Effective 1 April 2010, the rate of GST was increased from 10% to 12.5%. Exempt supplies of goods and services include:

• some financial services and gambling supply;

• some supply of goods and services by an educational institution within the

meaning of the Education Act;

• medical, dental, hospital, optical and paramedical services, other than veterinary

services and cosmetic surgery;

• supply of residential accommodation or accommodation in a hotel or similar


• public postal services, domestic public transport of passengers, lease of aircraft

and maintenance services in connection with the supply of public air transport;

• international transport of passengers or goods;

• some supplies of services provided to diplomatic missions, international and

regional organisations;

•  goods and services provided to the Government of Belize.

There are some Zero-rated items which include:

• exported goods and services;

• some food items for human consumption, water supply (other than bottled

water) and some medicines and medical supplies for human use;

• some items and supplies for use in education;

• some supplies connected with agriculture, livestock, birds and fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

Other Taxes

• Stamp duty on certain transactions, including the transfer of property;

• Land and property taxes;

• Trade licence, motor vehicle licence and other taxes charged by local authorities, customs, excise and other taxes charged by the Customs and Excise Department.

Withholding Taxes

Dividends paid to non-residents: 15%.

Gross contract payments in connection with contracts exceeding BZ$3,000: 3%.

Interest paid to non-residents:15%.

Management fees, rental of plant and equipment and charges for technical services paid to non-residents: 25%.

Effective 1 January 2011, dividends paid to shareholders by entities licensed to provide telecommunication services that offer real time voice services are exempt from tax.

Exchange Control

The Foreign Exchange Control Act provides that only the Central Bank of Belize and authorised dealers may deal in foreign currencies.

A foreign exchange permit must first be obtained from the Central Bank to pay for goods and services procured outside Belize.

Central Bank approval is also required to secure a loan outside Belize denominated in a foreign currency. 

Personal Tax

Effective 1 January 2010, employed persons, resident in Belize, are allowed a basic deduction of:

(a) BZ$25,600 in the case of an employed person whose total income, from all sources in a basis year, does not exceed BZ$26,000;

(b) BZ$24,600 in the case of an employed person whose total income, from all sources in a basis year, exceeds BZ$26,000 but does not exceed BZ$27,000;

(c) BZ$22,600 in the case of an employed person whose total income, from all sources in a basis year, exceeds BZ$27,000 but does not exceed BZ$29,000 and

(d) BZ$19,600 in the case of all other employed persons. There are no other deductions in ascertaining chargeable income except for allowable charitable donations which is restricted to one-sixth part of the chargeable income.

The rate of tax on chargeable income is a flat rate of 25%, with a standard tax credit deduction of BZ$100 available to all residents.

Double tax treaties

Belize has double tax treaties with UK, Denmark, Sweden and the CARICOM countries.

Belize has signed Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEA) with Australia, Belgium, Netherlands and UK. The agreements with Aruba, Denmark, Faro Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Sweden are pending ratification.

Legal system

Belize's legal system is a direct offspring of the English common law system. The Supreme Court is the high court of first instance with appeals lying to the itinerant Court of Appeal comprising of three judges. Appeals thereafter lie to the Caribbean Court of Justice based in Trinidad. Up until July 2010, Belize's final appellate court was the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which sits in London, England.


Belize has five commercial banks, not including offshore banks. Three are based in Belize – Alliance Bank, Belize Bank and Atlantic Bank — and two, First Caribbean Bank(formerly Barclays) and ScotiaBank, are large multinational banks with branches in Belize. The local banks are small, about the size of a small-town local bank or savings and loan in the U.S. Belize also has several credit unions and small mortgage lending institutions.

Banking secrecy in Belize is strictly enforced by law. Belize authorities have no direct access to bank information. Court order is required to get such access.

Types of companies

  • Belize Private Companies
  • Belize Limited Liability Partnership
  • Belize Limited Life Companies
  • Belize Joint Ventures and Cooperatives
  • Belize Partnership
  • Belize Sole Proprietor
  • Belize Public Investment Companies
  • Belize International Business Companies
  • Belize Trust Funds

Changes to the tax laws and other applicable rules in various countries covered by this publication may be proposed. Therefore, readers should contact local specialised firms to obtain further information.