In my blog post recently on “Expat Information on Belize Bank and Regulations,” I discussed in detail how Belize IBC’s work. One of my loyal readers then commented and asked me “Why would you get an IBC account?” I thought this is an excellent question, and more than likely many of you may be wondering the same thing. So here are some reasons why:
1. More than likely, most expats would not want to convert all of their U.S. dollars to Belize dollars. Once you convert to Belize dollars, it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, to get the conversion reversed if you ever wanted to due to the Central Bank of Belize regulations. So leaving your money in U.S. currency is smart.
2. IBC’s (International Business Corporations) leave your money in U.S. currency. The upside is that you can easily transfer online from your IBC to your local Belize Bank account. The same cannot be said for getting money from a U.S. bank account to your local Belize Bank account. You would have to either wire transfer the money, which is $75 a pop(!!!), or you could send a money order made payable to yourself, but the bank would have to put a hold on it until the Central Bank could clear it, which could take anywhere from 3-6 weeks. You see, Belize is quite strict about making sure that no ilicit money (drugs, money laundering, etc.) is entering their country, hence the strict rules.
3. My reader thought he could use his U.S. bank debit card to make purchases while living in Belize, and he can. However, every time you make a transaction (cash withdrawal and/or purchase), you will have to pay a 2-3% transaction fee to your U.S. bank. Also, keep in mind, you can only withdraw up to $250 a day at a Belize ATM. ATM’s are honestly scarce (there’s only two in all of San Ignacio/Santa Elena – next closest is 25 miles away), and at times, unreliable.
4. Certainly my reader’s logic about keeping their money in a U.S. account because it’s insured and Belize banks are not is quite valid. However, keep in mind that there has never been a Belize bank failure since the Central Bank was created in 1976. This is because they are quite strict with their underwriting rules, and they give out loans the old fashioned way (high down pament, very credit worthy individuals, etc.). Also, property here does not have wild appreciation swings, so loan failures in Belize are quite low.
5. Lastly, Belize IBC’s are used for many different purposes, from tax exemption, capital gain exemption and asset protection – something no U.S. Bank can provide.
Can you see now why having an IBC in your portfolio might make sense?