Tax haven Anguilla courts companies

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 June, 2010, 12:00am

The list of offshore tax havens luring Hong Kong, mainland and regional companies is growing, and one can add to it Anguilla, a small British-governed Caribbean island.

Representatives from Anguilla have made periodic trips to Hong Kong to familiarise local companies with the British territory.

Even Victor Banks, when he was finance minister, visited Hong Kong with his top officials to promote a new online company registration system.

Anguilla is determined to boost awareness of its tax-free zone and has identified Hong Kong as a major source of offshore company registrations. Nearly a third of all companies registered in such offshore tax havens are owned by Hong Kong corporations and investors.

According to offshore consultants, Anguilla has a simple incorporation requirement and overseas firms can register within one day.

Julia Connolly, a consultant at Sovereign Trust (Hong Kong), says that what sets Anguilla apart from other offshore destinations is its newly completed network. Anguilla's Commercial Online Registration Network (Acorn) allows firms from anywhere in the world to register in the territory.

'Anguilla is most well known for its Acorn service,' says Connolly. The internet-based technology has been in the pipeline since 1998 and cost Anguilla US$7million to set up.

Connolly says that the legal system of most Caribbean islands, including the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Anguilla, is based on English common law.

'The BVI Business Companies Act was passed in 2004 and is slightly more up to date than the Anguilla International Business Companies Act of 2000.

The annual government fee for Anguilla offshore companies is one of the lowest in the Caribbean,' she says. Anguilla charges US$230 to US$250 for an overseas company registration, while the BVI charges US$300.

Offshore consultants, however, add that a drawback for Anguilla is that it is not well known as an offshore financial service centre and will need to do much to promote itself ahead of better-known jurisdictions, such as the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, the BVI and others.

But Connolly says that a number of Hong Kong companies may use Anguilla due to its British-style legislation, political stability, cheaper cost, excellent tax regime and reputation.