BVI Private Companies

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) International Business Company (IBC) sets the standard for the offshore company. It is a highly flexible, affordable 0% tax company which can register quickly with the minimum or reporting and disclosure requirements. The BVI model has been adopted by many other countries such as Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) etc. In most cases the BVI is the classic choice for an offshore company though some criticize the BVI as overly bureaucratic and slow preferring to use one of the smaller centres. Through its success the BVI has become inseparably associated with tax planning and with this inevitably goes an element of stigma and the risk of attracting unwanted attention from onshore tax authorities. For more information about offshore companies generally please see our main page on offshore products. Alternative 0% tax entities include other offshore countries which may be quicker or cheaper (though still attract as much negative attention) and UK LLPs (0% if correctly structured) or Gibraltar Companies (0% if correctly structured).

BVI companies can only be formed by local licensed agents.

Trading and Holding
BVI companies pay no tax (0%) of any sort making them highly popular for all purposes, both holding and trading.

BVI companies must have at least one director who may be a natural or legal person (such as a company). The identity of the directors is not public record and is known only to the local agent. This provides a high level of confidentiality although it may be necessary from time to time to disclose this information such as when executing contracts on behalf of the company or when opening bank accounts. Most local providers offer professional management for a fee which can be either discretionary management or nominees for the beneficial owners.

BVI companies may have a company secretary which can be a natural or legal person (such as a limited company). Secretaries are often provided by local providers for ease of administration (so that they can sign off documents if necessary).  

BVI companies must have at least one shareholder who may be a natural or legal person (such as a limited company). Details of shareholders are not public information. Nominee shareholders are available for all local providers to remove any connection between the beneficial owner and the company. For information about the pros and cons of nominee shareholders please see our main article on nominee services in the products section.

Share Capital
BVI companies effectively have no minimum capitalisation requirement.

BVI companies are required in theory to prepare accounts and these need not be filed or audited. In reality in most cases accounts are not prepared. 

BVI company should not bank in the BVI but can bank elsewhere. Many providers offer bank opening services in the Caribbean or elsewhere, the process might take a considerable amount of time given the need to send original documents from the Caribbean to the bank. 

BVI Companies have no real reporting obligations. They are required to update their agents following significant changes to the companies.

Registered Office
BVI companies must have a registered address in the BVI but this is provided by local agents as part of the formation costs.

BVI formation itself is very quick (it takes around one day) but there are often delays associated with both the acceptance of due diligence requirements and the shipping of documents by courier (if originals are required). The BVI applies more stringent criteria to client acceptance than most other Caribbean countries and since all documents need to be received in original under apostille this can cause significant delays and costs (for information on certification of documents see our main article on documentary services). 

BVI companies can be called by any name which is not offensive, does not imply they will be undertaking licensable activities and is not already taken. Due to the huge number of BVI companies choosing a name this can take several attempts. BVI company names can end in 'Ltd', 'Limited', 'Corporation', 'Corp', 'Incorporated', 'Inc', 'Societe Anonyme' or 'Sociedad Anónima'.

BVI companies in theory need to be liquidated and the process is fairly complicated and expensive. In practice BVI companies will simply be struck off without any further action if the agents lose contact with their clients.