The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is located in the eastern Caribbean, approximately 2,000 km south-east of Miami. The Federation comprises two islands: Nevis, with an area of 93.2 sq. km and St. Kitts (St. Christopher), with an area of 168.4 sq. km. The total area is 261.6 sq. km. The population is about 45,000. The official language is English.
History, Political Structure and Law
Columbus sighted and named Nevis Island on his second voyage in 1493. In 1628 Nevis became a British colony. Only in 1983 did the island become independent, when it joined the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Now Nevis is a member of the British Commonwealth and the United Nations. Nevis is a strong democracy based upon the British parliamentary system with an elected local assembly (one house). The head of state is Her Majesty the Queen of England, represented by the appointed General Governor.
The legal system is based on English Common Law, but the Nevis Business Corporation Ordinance, which was introduced in 1984, incorporates both British and US laws, with the Ordinance drawing heavily on statutes applicable in the US state of Delaware.
Economy and Infrastructure
Nevis enjoys a literacy rate of 96%, one of the highest in the western hemisphere. The economy is based on agriculture and tourism. The economy has traditionally been dependent on the growing and processing of sugar cane, also coconut and cotton growing. A growth in the construction industry, tourism and export-oriented goods production has spurred the economic expansion of the island.
Nevis has excellent telecommunication facilities with an up-to-date fiber-optic digital system. There are no direct flights linking Nevis to the US mainland or Europe, but the island is easily accessible by utilising connecting flights via Antigua. Nevis does not have a deep-water port; however, it does have an important mooring basin for yachts.
The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, which is fixed to the US Dollar. US dollars are widely accepted on the island. There is no exchange control.
The Principal Corporate Legislation is the Nevis Business Corporation Ordinance (1984).
The type of Company used for international trade and investment is the Offshore Exempt Company (NBCO). A Company incorporated in Nevis has the same powers as a natural person. The language of legislation and corporate documentation is English. Off-the-shelf Companies are available.
The Confidential Relationship Act, 1985 operates to prevent the disclosure of confidential information and/or records, and imposes a fine and/or a prison sentence for the improper divulging or attempted or threatened divulgence of such information.
There are some restrictions on trading and business activity:
- A Nevis company incorporated under the Business Corporation Ordinance of 1984 is not permitted to carry on trading activity within Nevis, or own real estate there.
- A company incorporated under the said act must not engage in the business of banking, insurance, assurance, reinsurance, fund management, collective investment schemes or any other activity that would suggest an association with the banking or insurance industries.
Incorporation procedure involves submission of the Articles of Incorporation to the Registrar of Companies, together with the appropriate fee. As a matter of local company law the company must maintain a registered office within Nevis and must also appoint a Nevis resident as registered agent.
Company names are subject to the following requirements and restrictions:
- A name may be in any language that uses the Latin alphabet. The Registrar may request an English translation if a foreign language name is used.
- A name similar to that of an existing company is not acceptable.
- A name that in the opinion of the Registrar is undesirable or suggests an illegal activity is not permitted.
- A name that may imply government patronage is not acceptable.
- A name requires consent or a license if it contains the following words or their foreign language equivalents: Bank, Building Society, Savings, Loans, Insurance, Assurance, Fund Management, Investment Fund, Municipal, Chamber of Commerce, University.
- Limited, Company, Corporation, Incorporated, Sociedad Anonima, Gesellschaft mit beshcrankter Haftung or abbreviations thereof are the required suffixes to denote limited liability.
The minimum number of directors is three (in which case the number of shareholders is also three). If the company has less than three shareholders, the company can be allowed less than 3 directors. Therefore, one person can create the company and be sole director and shareholder. The directors may be natural persons or bodies corporate, may be of any nationality and need not be residents of Nevis. A Nevis exempt company must appoint a company secretary who may also be a natural person or a corporate body, may be of any nationality and not necessarily resident in Nevis. The minimum number of shareholders is one, and shares may be issued in bearer form. Shares may have a value denominated in any currency or can be without par value. There is no requirement for the details of directors and shareholders of a Nevis Corporation to be registered on the public file.
Normally the authorised share capital is either 1,000 shares without par value or US$ 100,000 of shares with par value. The minimum issued capital is one share without par value or one share with par value. The following classes of shares are permitted: registered shares, bearer shares, preference shares, redeemable shares and shares with or without par value.
Annual Taxation and Fees
A Nevis Offshore Exempt Company can operate completely free of all forms of taxation.
There is an annual registration fee of US$ 220 payable to the Minister of Finance. Although Nevis does have double tax agreements, a company incorporated under the Nevis Business Corporation Ordinance 1984 cannot obtain any relief through them.
Financial statements: Although there is no requirement to submit or file audited accounts, a Nevis company is required to maintain financial records.