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Doing Business in Bahamas
 
 
 

General

The majority of companies formed in the Bahamas for offshore purposes are incorporated under the International Business Companies Act 1989. However this law did not supersede the existing companies law, most recently re-stated in the Companies Act 1992, which is based on English law and is used to form various types of company used by businesses trading in the Bahamas, and also for certain other special purposes.

Companies formed under the Companies Act 1992 can be private companies limited by shares or by guarantee, or can be public companies. For all these types of company, Memorandum and Articles of Association must be filed at the Companies Registry, there need to be a minimum of two members, and there must be a registered office in the Bahamas. If a company is going to trade locally, it will need an appropriate business licence.

Forms of Business Organisation

Domestic Limited Company
A domestic resident company limited by shares is usually formed for the purposes of carrying on local business.
There must be at least two directors. The company's annual return includes a list of the members, and is kept on the public register. An annual audit can be dispensed with, if all shareholders agree. There is no requirement to file financial statements.

Shares need not have a par value, and when paid up, need not have distinguishing numbers. Bearer shares can be issued with exchange control permission.

Company Limited by Guarantee
Under the Companies Act, a company limited by guarantee must have a minimum of two members; the Memorandum of Association contains a statement of the amount up to which the members guarantee the company's debts. The Articles can provide for the members to have differing 'shares' of the assets and liabilities.

The Company Limited by Guarantee has certain advantages, including that there is no list of members on the annual return, and that control over assets can be achieved without the use of shares; in some jurisdictions, profits realised from such companies are classified as capital gains rather than as income. Specialist advice is required by anyone considering the use of a company limited by guarantee.

Public Company
A public company formed under the Companies Act is similar to a private company limited by shares except that there is a compulsory annual audit, and there must be at least three directors. A list of all officers, directors and managers of the company must be kept at the registered office and sent to the Registrar-General along with the annual return.

International Business Company
The International Business Company is the most widely used vehicle for offshore operations in the Bahamas; it normally takes the form of a private company limited by shares. The governing legislation is the International Business Companies Act 1989, updated by the International Business Companies (Amendment) Act 1994, the International Business Companies Act 2001, and the International Business Companies (Amendment) Act 2004.


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