When you think of financial services, Belize might not be the first country that pops into people’s minds. But the small country of Belize who only gained full independence from Britain in 1981, has managed to establish itself as a popular offshore option. This is due to the fact it is relatively easy to form a shell company without residing or being based within in the country. Companies based in Belize do not have to pay any tax on their earnings made outside of the country. With the vast majority of FX traders residing outside of Belize, Forex brokers who choose to set-up in the country can expect to pay very little in the way of taxes. The country also boasts very strong secrecy laws, which makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for governments and researchers to work out who the beneficial owners and shareholders of a company are. Just like the British Virgin Islands, the combination of tax haven status and strong secrecy laws has done much to attract Forex brokers who are looking to set-up in favourable tax jurisdiction.
Forex Regulation in Belize
The provision of financial services is regulated in Belize, with responsibility falling to the countries ISFC. The majority of brokerages operating from the island are in-fact regulated by the ISFC, but in the past thfxview.com has come across brokerages listing Belize as their base of operations without being regulated by ISFC. But this relatively common in other jurisdictions, with companies stating that they are operating somewhere despite lacking the necessary regulatory approval.
According to documents obtained by thefxview.com, the total of cost of incorporating and becoming regulated in Belize is around $30-40k, which makes the country very attractive to startup’s who want to become a regulated entity without the significant costs of EU regulation, which often prohibit new players entering the market unless they have serious capital behind them.
Regulation in the jurisdiction of Belize is notoriously light touch and what is required by Forex brokerages choosing Belize as an operational base is rather limited. A number of commentators have commented that the minimums required by the EU’s Markets in Financial Instrument Directive (MiFID) do not go far enough to provide real protection for traders. The regulatory requirements in Belize are significantly less stringent and those who feel that certain MiFID jurisdictions do not provide adequate client protection, would most certainly want to avoid doing business with a brokerage regulated in Belize.
All this being said the regulatory law in Belize does provide traders with a few basic protections and does require that brokerages have some level of accountability.
- Regulated brokerages must have at least $100,000 in unimpaired capital.
- Client funds must be held in segregated accounts.
- Make monthly reports to the ISFC; detailing unimpaired capital and the number and volume of trades made with the firm. Unlike with the FCA and other EU regulators firms at not required to detail individual transactions.
- Must provide all of it customers with monthly statements; the amount to due customers and the fact that these funds are available for withdrawal on the customers demand.
- Must demonstrate that it has made an adequate attempt to deal with customer complaints.
These minimums do seem provide traders with a limited amount of protection, but as is often the case the legislation is only as good as the enforcement of it. There have only been a few examples where the regulator has taken action against firms which have breached the relevant regulation with the ISFC withdrawing GCI Trading’s license for an undisclosed reason. Those who do opt to do business with a brokerage regulated in Belize should realize they will be receiving very limited regulatory protection and oversight.
Belize Forex Brokers
UFX/ UFX Markets
UFX also known as UFX Markets, has a somewhat chequered reputation with the CySEC regulated arm of the business having received a number of negative reviews over the years. In 2014, the brokerage began onloading clients from outside the European Union to a new subsidiary based and regulated in Belize. This allowed the brokerage to take on clients with a lower costs, but also meant that those from outside the EU were no receiving the protection afforded by the firms CySEC license. Read a full review of UFX Markets here.
Exness who also operate a number of subsidiaries around the world, also operate an arm based and regulated in Belize. Like other brokerages with an Belize based subsidiary the company is used to onboard clients who are in jurisdictions where the provision of FX services is not regulated.
UBK Markets hold both a CySEC and ISFC licence. In a similar manner to both Exness and UFX, the company onboards clients from outside the European Union to their subsidiary in Belize. While European residents are handed off to UBK Markets Ltd, a CySEC regulated firm. This allows the company to take on clients from the EU, while allowing the company to do business outside the EU at a much lower cost.
A full list of companies holding a Type F licence can be found on the ISFC Website.
Belize has become a popular destination for FX brokers who want to operate in a favourable jurisdiction. Belize boasts tax haven status and has a regulatory framework which makes it relatively easy for brokerages to obtain and run a brokerage from the jurisdiction. Increasingly, a number of brokerages have begun onboarding customers to their Belize based subsidiaries, despite operating firms regulated in the EU or elsewhere. This has a potential to cause confusion for new customers and it is important traders are clear regarding which entity they are being placed with. While regulation in Belize is particularly light touch, it could be argued that the regulatory law goes further than a number of other popular offshore jurisdictions. Despite this traders seem unlikely to receive any real protection and should take this into account when considering operating with firms based in Belize.