St. Kitts: An International Financial Centre

Article by Shawna Brisbane, Director, Marketing & Development Department

Ministry of Finance, St. Kitts

St. Christopher ("St. Kitts") forms a part of the twin-island Federation known as "St. Kitts & Nevis". The Federation has a history of political and economic stability. The economy is well diversified and since the 1980's the Federation has experienced excellent growth rates averaging 5% and reaching 7% in 1997.

St. Kitts focuses on foreign investments that will generate employment opportunities by upgrading and expanding the island's infrastructure. St. Kitts therefore places emphasis on both industrial development and financial services.

In April 1997, St. Kitts launched itself as an International Financial Centre with the enactment of three pieces of legislation viz.

The Companies Act, 1996

The Trusts Act 1996 and

The Limited Partnerships Act 1996

The Companies Act 1996

The 1996 Companies Act effectively repealed the Companies Act, Chapter 335 (domestic) and the International Business Companies Act 1992 (offshore). In doing so, St. Kitts distinguished itself in the region, by introducing the concept of an ordinary company, which qualifies for tax-exempt status provided that it conducts business only with persons not resident in the Federation. These companies are referred to as exempt companies. An exempt company does not lose its tax exempt status because of activities within the Federation which are incidental to the carrying on of its business such as, signing contracts, employing residents, purchasing goods and services, holding managers' and directors' meetings or serving as adviser to residents who enjoy exempt status, among other things.

St. Kitts therefore has one regime, which captures both onshore and offshore entities under one piece of legislation, which makes all entities effectively answerable to the same standards of supervision. For this reason, the amendments to this Act to meet the standards recommended by the recent wave of initiatives to hit offshore centres, have been minor.

Incorporation costs are priced competitively at US$200 and names can be reserved for up to three months without costs. Approvals for names can be granted within minutes. The incorporation process is usually completed within 24 hours.

Companies may be limited by either shares or guarantee or by both (hybrid companies). All companies must maintain a registered office in this jurisdiction, must maintain corporate records at the registered...

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