Thursday 24th October, 2019

History and Background

Nevis is a 36-square-mile island situated in the Eastern Caribbean, three hours' flight time from the United States, eight hours from Europe, and lies two miles southeast of its sister island, St Kitts. Nevis is noted by its circular shape, and is easily identified by Nevis Peak, a 3,232 feet cloud capped mountain rising in its centre. The island was sighted by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage, and was named 'Nuestra Senora de Las Nieves'. English is both the official and spoken language in Nevis.

Government Structure

Nevis and St. Kitts have long enjoyed political stability and independence which was achieved from the United Kingdom (UK) in 1983, and together they form the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis (also referred to as the Federation of St Christopher and Nevis – the Federation). Although independent, the parliamentary and legal systems are respectively based upon the Westminster model of government and the English common law, with the former being set out in the Federation’s Constitution.

The Constitution empowers Nevis with certain national sovereign rights to self-government, while the Federal Government retains the right to determine foreign policy for St. Kitts and Nevis. Nevis also has its own autonomous legislative body that enacts laws to develop the island in the areas of trade, industry and finance.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is still the putative head of state, represented in St. Kitts by a Governor-General, and in Nevis by a Deputy Governor-General. All legislation passed in the Federation Parliament requires the Governor-General's assent on behalf of the Crown, similarly legislation passed in the Nevis Parliament requires the Deputy Governor-General's assent on behalf of the Crown.

Legislative Environment

Nevis has taken full advantage of the autonomy afforded to it under the Constitution, and has enacted a suite of legislation that continues to make it a competitive, relevant and respected centre for international finance. Dedicated legislation has been enacted and refined with respect to international banking, international business corporations, limited liability companies and trusts, to enable service providers to better meet the wealth-management needs of clients. In 2004, legislation was introduced governing insurance, mutual funds and foundations.

Currency

The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD), which is shared by eight other countries, comprising  the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. The XCD has been pegged to the United States Dollar (USD) at a rate of XCD2.7169 to USD1 since 1976.

Legal System

The legal system of Nevis is based on the common law of England, as varied by local statutes. Decisions of Nevis' High Court can be appealed to the regional Court of Appeals of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, which are in turn appealable to the Privy Council in London. The Privy Council's jurisdiction does not extend to overriding Nevis' laws.

Tax Regime

The tax system in Nevis is differentiated for domestic and international legal arrangements. All entities incorporated under Nevis’ international financial services laws are tax exempt so long as they do not transact business on the island. Thus all Nevis International Trusts, Nevis Business Corporations, Nevis Limited Liability Companies and Nevis International Insurance Companies that do not transact or conduct business in Nevis are not subject to:

  • any corporate tax, income tax, withholding tax, stamp tax, asset tax, exchange controls;
  • any fees or taxes based upon or measured by assets or income originating outside of Nevis;
  • any fees or taxes in connection with other activities outside of Nevis; or in connection with matters of corporate administration which may occur in Nevis.

The Nevis Multiform Foundation is afforded a special election to select Nevis as its tax regime and that election can be changed on an annual basis.

Corporate entities established under the international financial services laws of Nevis, that transact or conduct business on the island are subject to taxation of 35%. There is no personal income tax in the Federation, however, a social services levy is payable.

Save as set out above, withholding tax in Nevis is levied at 10% and is deducted from individuals and companies that conduct business in Nevis, and are remitting payments to persons outside of the Federation from profits, administration, management or head office expenses, technical service fees, accounting and audit expenses, royalties, non-life insurance premiums and rent.

In addition, there is no net-worth tax, gift tax, capital gains tax or inheritance or estate duty in the Federation.

The following activities will not constitute doing business in Nevis:

  • maintaining bank accounts in Nevis;  
  • holding board meetings in Nevis;
  • maintaining corporate or financial records in Nevis;
  • maintaining an administrative or managerial office in Nevis with respect to assets and activities outside of Nevis;
  • being a partner in a Nevis partnership;  
  • acquiring real property in certain industrial or tourist facilities in Nevis approved by government.

Global Forum of Transparency and Exchange of Information For Tax Purposes

The Phase 2 Peer Review of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis conducted in 2013/2014 determined that, to a large extent, the Federation’s legal framework and its practical implementation thereof seeks to ensure that ownership, accounting and bank information are available according to the Global Forum’s standards. The Federation therefore received an overall rating of ‘Largely Compliant’ with International Standards.

To date, the Federation has entered into 21 (Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) with Aruba, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Curacao, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Guernsey, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sint Maarten, Sweden and United Kingdom.

Double Taxation Conventions (DTCs)

The Federation as of late 2012 had entered into DTCs with Canada, Denmark, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. The Federation is a signatory to the Caribbean Inter Regional Double Taxation Agreement, with other signatories being Antigua-Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and Grenadines, and Trinidad-Tobago.

Confidentiality and Disclosure

The Confidential Relationships Act,Cap 21.02 \applies to all those in the financial community, and provides that anyone disclosing banking, financial and international trust documents, that are not required in other laws and/or without a court order is subject to criminal penalties, including fines or imprisonment.

Anti-Money Laundering

The Federal Government recognises the importance of having a robust anti-money laundering infrastructure, and has enacted the necessary legislation in an effort to preserve the jurisdiction’s integrity as a growing financial centre: the Financial Services Regulatory Commission Act; the Proceeds of Crime Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Regulations made therunder; the Financial Intelligence Unit Act; and the Anti-Terrorism Act. These laws are updated whenever necessary to keep in line with International Standards.