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Antigua and Barbuda - Banking

Many people see Antigua and Barbuda as a tax haven as its residents are free from capital gains tax, inheritance tax and, since April 2016, personal income tax.

Instead, the government earns its income from stamp duty and other taxes on property purchases, including the property charge. Business and corporate taxes as well as the Revenue Recovery Charge (RCC) and the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) are also key sources of income for the government.

The nation also benefits from long term support, expertise and financial help from overseas countries and charities. In addition, Hurricanes Irma and Maria, natural disasters which caused breathtaking damage to island properties and hardship to local communities, led to several countries donating millions of dollars of aid for emergency relief and reconstruction.

If you want to see detailed information about the country’s tax schedules, the Deloitte International Tax: Antigua And Barbuda Highlights is a useful resource.

Why Antigua And Barbuda Refute The Term 'Tax Haven'

The term ‘tax haven’ is seen as by many as having immoral and stigmatised overtones; and indeed, there are many living on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda who object to the term.

In 2016, the state of Illinois in the United States included Antigua and Barbuda in a legislative list of 11 Caribbean tax havens. Diplomatic correspondence objecting to this action highlighted Antigua and Barbuda as a 2015 signatory to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) common reporting standard.

The nation had held the Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the United States since February 2003, and in February 2014, the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force stated that Antigua and Barbuda was fully compliant and cooperative with their international standards. In addition, the United States and Antigua and Barbuda concluded an agreement facilitating implementation of the provisions of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance ACT (FATCA).

Later that year, Antigua and Barbuda enacted the automatic exchange of financial account information bill 2016 without debate or objection. The act facilitates the implementation and enforcement of the OECD common reporting standard.

Millions of leaked files in the collections known as the Panama Papers (2016) and the Paradise Papers (2017) exposed the extent to which money could be hidden offshore, with many company structures not identifying the beneficiaries - and the possibility that money laundering and other criminal activity was being facilitated. In response, the European Union Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) published a ‘tax haven blacklist’ in December 2017. It was updated in March 2018 to include Antigua and Barbuda in Annex II, known as the ‘grey list’. This means the nation has not been identified as a non-cooperative territory for tax purposes, but that commitments to ongoing change will be monitored.

However, that list has its critics. Aurore Chardonnet, Oxfam’s EU policy adviser on inequality and tax, was concerned about the focus on small nations. “Urgent tax reforms are also needed inside the EU. If the EU were to apply its own criteria to member states, even four EU countries would be blacklisted.”

How To Become A Resident Of Antigua And Barbuda For Tax Purposes

With no personal income tax or capital gains tax to pay, and an absence of inheritance tax, Antigua and Barbuda is an attractive country for those wishing to minimise their tax bills.

In order to have your tax and financial affairs fall under the Antigua and Barbuda Inland Revenue regime, you must be physically present in the country for a minimum of 183 days in any year so that you can claim you were resident for tax purposes.

The government is actively encouraging people of wealth to settle in Antigua and Barbuda through the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP). In addition to obtaining citizenship and the right to enter more than a hundred countries without a visa, you can become a taxpayer on Antigua and Barbuda with only five days of residence per year for five years.

You can find out more about CIP, and other ways to legally stay and settle in Antigua and Barbuda, by reading the Visas section in this country guide.

Is It Safe To Keep Your Money In Antigua And Barbuda?

Under the 1981 constitution, Antigua and Barbuda is a parliamentary democracy. Local citizens vote in free elections to determine the members of the house of representatives, who sit for five years. Members of the senate are selected by appointment.

The nation is part of the Commonwealth, and the British monarch remains head of state, represented by a governor general. The judicial system operates according to the principles and processes of English common law.

Whilst allegations of corruption and crime do regularly surface, these are not serious enough to undermine the general security which exists in Antigua and Barbuda. Fraud will be reported on where it comes to light, even - or perhaps especially - if it involves political connections.

Since independence, there have been no occasions in which the financial environment of Antigua and Barbuda would put an investor’s money seriously at risk. Property prices were badly affected by the global economic crisis of 2008, while the murder of a British honeymoon couple the same year affected the tourism market, and Hurricane Irma and Maria caused devastation to homes, businesses and local communities in 2017. However, at no stage has the government been known to seize assets, default on loans or experience a collapse of the local currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar.

Obviously any investment made in Antigua and Barbuda, as with all other countries in the world, needs to be subject to due diligence to ensure it is legitimate, not beyond your chosen risk level and held in a stable environment.

Opening A Bank Account In Antigua And Barbuda

The Expat Focus article Starting A Bank Account In Antigua: What You Want To Know comprehensively sets out the arrangements for opening a bank account in Antigua and Barbuda, along with details of bank branch opening hours.

The same article lists with the names and addresses of eight prominent banks on the islands. Which one is best for you will depend on where you live and the service charges that work out best for transactions you do most often.

Asking Other Expats For Recommendations

If you want to ask other expats about their experiences with local banks, you can do so on the Expat Focus Forum or our Facebook Group for expats in Antigua and Barbuda.

However, please do exercise caution by keeping the discussion at a general level. Disclosing your personal wealth or financial affairs online is never a good idea. If someone online offers you an investment that is too good to be true, do not take the bait.

Having said that, reliable customer service and convenient arrangements are important factors when choosing a bank, and expats are in a good position to share their local knowledge.

Read more about this country

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