You’ve already decided that Belize is where you want to spend your retirement years. However, you are not just ready to completely give up working. You’re thinking that running a small business that’s open for a limited number of hours per week would suit you just fine. In view of this, you would like to know how to go about establishing a business in Belize. While there may be some additional requirements based on the type of business you want to operate, these essentials will get you started. Let’s delve into the 10 Easy Steps to Opening a Business in Belize.
1. Location, Location, Location – Step one – Find a suitable location
With your business plan completed, your next order of business is to locate and secure a physical site for your business. It could be as simple as leasing office space, or it might mean securing a retail space. It all depends on the type of business you plan on operating. Guided by your business plan, you should pay close attention to factors such as the monthly rental cost, ease of parking and foot traffic for customers, and the limitations that may apply to redecorating the space.
2. Business name Registration
According to the Business Names Act, Chapter 247 of the Laws of Belize, every individual, firm, or company having a place of business in Belize must register their business name. This is the step which formalize your business in Belize. It is important to protect your business name as yours since this is a key means of identification in the eyes of the target market. This is a one time, one
day process undertaken at the Companies & Corporate Affairs Registry in Belmopan. You can do this either under the Business Name Act or the Companies Act depending on which one applies.
You must first check the current register to determine whether there are any existing businesses with the same or similar name. If there are, you will not be able to register your business under that name. For this reason, it’s a good idea to come up with several different potential names before consulting the registry. If you find that your intended name is already taken, go to the next one on your list of names until you find one that has not been taken. Your goal is to choose a name that’s available, easy for consumers to remember, and that people will readily associate with the goods or services that you plan on offering. Follow this link for a Business Name Availability (search) Form.
As indicated above, you can register your business under the Business Name Act or the Companies Act. If the latter is used you will need to submit your Company documents (Memorandums, and the Articles of Association) as well as proof of identity, proof of address, and the application fees. If the former is used, all you will need is proof of identity, proof of address, and the application fees. Remember that you should include your official company physical address and the business mailing address in the application. For ease of reference, click on the following link to access a printable checklist of what is required for a business name registration in Belize.
3. Trade License Acquisition
The law of Belize stipulates that any person exchanging a good or service for monetary value, i.e., operating a business in Belize, to obtain a trade license from the relevant local authorities to do so. This is obtained at the Town Board, City, or Village Council, as the case may be, by submitting; a copy of your Business Name or Company documents and Certificate in the case of a company, rental contract (if you are renting), proof of identity and address, completed application form and fees. Your application will be determined at one of four Quarterly meetings that are held throughout the year. There are provisions for you to pay for a Special Hearing if you missed one of the scheduled quarterly meetings and do not want to wait until the next scheduled meeting is convened. Annual payment is determined through a site visit of the premises during which evaluators determine an annual rental value of the space. Annual trade license fee is usually calculated at 25% of the assessed annual rental value.
4. Obtain a Temporary Employment Permit
Unless you are already recognized as a permanent resident in Belize, you must apply for a temporary employment permit if you intend to work in Belize. The submission of the application is to be done at any Labour Department Office. For details on requirements and application process visit your nearest Labour Department Office. In order to submit a Temporary Employment Permit application with the Labour Department you must hold a valid passport and a valid Belize visa. Kindly click on the following link for information on the Belize Temporary Employment (Work) Permit application process.
5. Open your Business Banking Account
Since you have been in Belize and have decided that this is the place for you to live, you may have already established a banking relationship at one of the local banks and thus have personal accounts
like checking, savings, and lifestyle accounts. It’s important that you do not use those accounts for your business operation. The same bank that you currently do business with on a personal level, can set up your business operating and payroll accounts with relative ease. The requirements for corporate accounts are a little different than those associated with personal accounts. Your banker will walk you through the process, look over the documentation that you have so far, and let you know if anything else is needed.
6. Business Tax Registration
After registering your business or company and obtaining your trade license, all business must register with the Income Tax Department and Government Sales Tax Department for tax purposes. Upon completion of the registration process at the Income Tax Department, a unique Tax Identification Number (TIN) will be issued. The TIN number is the same number that is to be used for Business Tax, General Sales Tax (GST), Customs and Excise processes. Business Tax is a tax on total revenues or receipts whether in cash or in kind and whether received or credited without any deduction for expenses. It is payable by any person practicing his/her profession, or a firm or company carrying on business in Belize. Click on the following links for a guide on Belize Business Tax.
7. General Sales Tax (GST) Registration
General Sales Tax is a tax on consumer spending collected at the point of importation and on business transactions when goods changed hands or services are performed. Taxable supplies are taxed at either the standard rate of 12.5% or 0% (Zero-Rated). All persons who are engaged in a taxable activity with an annual turnover exceeding BZ$75,000.00 must register with the Department of Government Sales Tax in accordance with the Government Sales Tax Act No. 49 of 2005. It is not the business activity which is registered but the person conducting those activities. This person could be a company, partnership, sole proprietorship, trustee or estate. Persons must register within one (1) month of the day on which the person first becomes eligible.
Only registered persons can charge GST on their supplies as output tax and claim credit on their purchases of supplies as input tax. (Section 23, GST Act 2005). If you anticipate grossing more than $6,000 per month or $75,000 per year, you are required to register with the department of GST. The personnel at the Department of General Sales Tax will use your TIN to set up your GST account so that you can collect and pay GST and to ensure your GST is properly recorded and
credited to your operation. The documents that you’ve already acquired (Business Name or Company Certificate, TIN, Trade License, proof of identity and proof of address) will also come in handy for this process. Expect to be asked about your projections for business volume. Click on the following link for a guide on how to register for Belize General Sales Tax (GST)
8. Social Security Registration
The Social Security Act, Chapter 44 of Laws of Belize, 1988 revised in 2000-2003 requires that persons who employ one or more persons must register for social security with the Belize Social Security
Board. The application must be made within seven (7) days of employing the first employee. Social Security contribution are made weekly but submitted to the Department with a monthly statement of contributions. The contribution is related to the weekly insurable earnings. A portion of the contribution is paid by the employer and the other portion is deducted from the employee salary.
9. Registration /Protection of Intellectual Property
The basis of a business’s identification is an important element of branding and as such, your business’s intellectual property add value to your business and must be protected. Intellectual Property is defined as intangible creations of the mind such as inventions, artistic work, designs, images, symbols, names, etc. that are used in commerce. This registration for protection is done by visiting the Belize Intellectual Property Office located in the City of Belmopan. The four areas protected under BELIPO are Trademarks, Patent, Industrial Design, and Copyright.
10. Anticipate a slower pace of doing business in Belize
Remember that the pace of doing business in Belize is typically more relaxed and casual. This is to your advantage since it does provide more time to get to know the business climate and begin to enjoy it.
You’ll find that most of the people you talk with along the way are happy to help and look forward to
welcoming you as part of their community.
I do hope you enjoyed reading: 10 Easy Steps to Opening a Business in Belize in 2022. Belize is such an amazing country; and I know you’ll love working and living here. From all of us at Shepherd Belize Real Estate, and Shepherd Belize Consulting, welcome to your new home and place of business