Why Bahamas is the clear choice for financial and corporate services providers?

Alvaro Tomas, partner and Vice President of Operations of the Fiduciary Unit of Morgan & Morgan

Morgan & Morgan opened its first offices in The Bahamas since 1991. We created MMG (Bahamas) Ltd. as a corporate service and later on, in 1996, founded MMG Bank & Trust Ltd., which started our financial unit´s successful path into the financial service industry.

Our board of directors decide in the mid-90s that The Bahamas was going to be one of our prominent jurisdictions because this sovereign country has become a well-recognized and reputable international financial center, with a modern and robust legislation, governmental supervision oriented towards facilitating business ventures and has an enviable workforce of seasoned and educated professionals.

We have seen its democratically elected governments navigate successfully through the tough times the smaller international financial centers have had to deal with given the shame and blame attitude of certain multinational organizations and communities. The Bahamas has been wise and steadfast in their positions and negotiations fully aware of the negative impact on the financial services industry as a whole a wrong decision might have. We value that at Morgan & Morgan. Also, the fact that we can fly directly several times a week to Nassau, from our headquarters located in Panama City, is also a big reason we feel comfortable with his jurisdiction.

But, what and why do we offer services and products to our clients from The Bahamas?

For myriad of good reasons apart from the gorgeous weather and waters. The Bahamian governments has always been investor friendly and have created a series of incentives that make the island a good venue for a variety of industries such as tourism, financial services, corporate services, insurance, marinas, real estate, among others. The friendly tax environment includes no income tax, no capital gains tax, no estate tax, no withholding tax, no dividend tax and no payroll tax to those who work in the Bahamas. But for a Value Added Tax of 7.5% on some goods and services, tax benefits abound.

We have also seen the creativity and the also the want to fill the markets needs attitude of the regulators. What better example of this is the creation of the SMART Fund legislation. In these times of fiscal compliancy and an international effort to exchange of information, clients must be happy to mitigate their tax burden. Therefore, cost efficient vehicles, that protect assets, help with estate planning and reduce the effective tax rate will be well viewed by clients.

The Bahamas SMART Fund

We´ve recently activated our SMART (Specific Mandate Alternative Regulatory Test) fund license provider MMG Fund Services Ltd. For wealth and tax planning in Brazil, SMART Funds have become a very useful and efficient tool. This vehicle has been promoted with certain success in Brazil by the Bahamian authorities. Brazilian residents are taxed globally, that is on their income anywhere in the world. Most of the financial income obtained outside Brazil is taxed at a rate of 15% except for dividends, which may be taxed at up to 27.5%. For a Brazilian client with a portfolio of ordinary or preferred shares paying dividends frequently, current taxes would reduce investment return dramatically. SMART Funds are an alternative that, on one hand, differ payment of taxes over dividends by capitalizing them and, on the other, upon redemption of the shares from the SMART fund, said income would be taxable at 15% only, producing a 12.5% savings.

There are seven “models” of the SMART fund that investors can choose, but for a private individual or family, the most common model is the SMART fund 4 Model. The features of this SMART fund are:

  • No offering memorandum is required – a term sheet is optional, but not mandatory.
  • No more than five individual investors.
  • Operates as a private investment company.
  • Subject to an annual certification to the Securities Commission or Unrestricted Fund Administrator.
  • Investors can waive requirement for an annual audit.
  • Can have an ISIN Number and Bloomberg Ticker.

As you can see, we at Morgan & Morgan are very comfortable offering products and services and we have a range of seasoned professionals that can help you choose the correct fund structure for your family. Finally, let us congratulate the Bahamas Financial Services Board on their 20th anniversary and thank them for making our job a little bit easier