The Off Shore Sector

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Introduction

What is an Offshore centre

Incentives of the Mauritian Offshore sector

Evolution of Offshore Companies registration

Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty

Impact on the Economy

M.O.B.A Authority

Introduction

Since 1989 the different governments in place have tried to develop Mauritius as an Off-Shore Centre with some degree of success. Currently, the Off-Shore centre is attracting considerable investment which is channelled to India. There exists a highly advantageous Double-Tax Avoidance Treaty between that country and Mauritius.

In 1989, the Banking Act of 1988 was amended to provide for the establishment of Off Shore Banking facilities. In 1990, the Companies Act of 1984 was in turn amended to enable the setting up and the operation of offshore companies.

To provide further impetus to the emerging offshore sector, the Mauritius Offshore Business Activities (M.O.B.A.) Act and the Offshore Trusts Act were proclaimed in 1992. Later in the same year the M.O.B.A. Authority became operational.

Offshore Centre:

Offshore centres are set up by means of appropriate legislation in a given country (the host country) in view of encouraging foreign or local financial institutions, companies or trusts in establishing resident corporate entities for the purpose of investing funds in countries other than the host country.

The corporate entities can be banks, funds management organisations or insurance companies amongst others.

It is reckoned that to be a successful offshore centre, political stability, respectability and accessibility of the centre are of paramount importance.

Political stability is a prime consideration of potential investors who must be assured that the funds invested are secure in the jurisdiction under which the centre operates.

Respectability is important for rumours of money laundering and scandals are bound to affect negatively the reputation of the centre. Yet it should operate with a minimum of regulations. A delicate balance must be achieved between the regulations and laws required to ensure that a centre remains free of money laundering and the confidentiality necessary for offshore business activities.

The accessibility of the centre through rapid and efficient movement of information and clients is essential. Offshore operators must be in constant touch with international financial markets throughout the world by means of modern telecommunications.

Accessibility of the centre by air travel to and from major world financial centres is important in spite of the fact that most offshore transactions are carried out through telecommunications.

Finally, an efficient domestic banking system and the presence of local legal and accounting expertise are indispensable for the continued success of the offshore centre.

Incentives:

The Mauritian Offshore sector offers a number of incentives which are as follows:

Evolution of Offshore Companies Registration:

Company TypeJune 1995 Sep 1995Dec 1995 Apr 1996
Offshore Company1425 16191911 2153
Offshore Funds Management 4552 6178
Investment Holding 743875 11071294
International Trading 106128 145156
Management Companies 2121 2222
Others510 543576 603
Int/Exempt Companies 9881118 13091433
Offshore Trusts35 4151 53
Offshore Banks7 77 7
Total2455 278532783646

Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty:

Whenever funds are invested from one country to the other, the returns on investment are liable to taxation in both countries, thus leading to double taxation. The aim of double taxation avoidance treaties is to eliminate this double taxation between the two countries signatory of the treaty without creating loopholes which permit tax evasion. In doing so, the treaty promotes the movement of capital and persons as well as boosting trade between the two countries.

Mauritius has signed and ratified double taxation avoidance treaties with a number of different countries. The following table is a summary of the different treaties signed and ratified by Mauritius.


DOUBLE TAXATION AVOIDANCE TREATIES

Summary table

Maximum tax rates applicable to certain revenues taxable at source

YearCountry DividendsInterests Royalties
Signed/RatifiedPortfolio/ Other Banks / Other
1978/1990Germany5%(a) / 15% Exempt/ ( c)15%
1981/1982France5%(b) / 15% Exempt/ ( c)15%
1981/1987Great Britain 10%(b) / 15%Exempt/ ( c) 15%
1983/1985India5%(b) / 15% Exempt/ ( c)15%
1992/1992Zimbabwe10%(a) / 20% Exempt/ 10%15%
1992/1992Sweden5%(b) / 15% Exempt/ 15%15%
1993/1993Malaysia5%(b) / 10% ? / 10%15%
1994/1994Swaziland7.5% / 7.5% 5% / 5%7.50%
1990/1995Italy5%(a) / 15% Exempt/ ( c)15%
1994/1995China5% / 5% 10% / 10%10%
1994/* South Africa 5%(a) / 15%Exempt/ 10%5%
1994/*Pakistan10% / 10% 10% / 10%12.50%
1995/*Madagascar5%(a) / 10% 10% / 10%5%
1995/*Luxembourg5%(b) / 10% Exempt/ NilNil
1995/*Namibia5%(a) / 10% Exempt/ 5%5%

Source : Ministry Of Finance ( May 1995)

Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty with Indonesia

Impact on the Economy:

The contribution of the Offshore sector to the local economy is difficult to quantify precisely. The information available indicates that around 500 jobs have been created in that sector and it also appears that direct exchange earnings are high enough to cover the supervision costs of the MOBA Authority.

Indirect benefits include added business for professionals like accountants, lawyers and fund managers who provide the necessary support for the setting up and running of offshore entities. The rental of office space, telecommunication charges and other miscellaneous local expenditures contribute to some measure to the economy.

The benefits of an offshore centre goes beyond the relatively modest above mentioned advantages. An Offshore centre propels Mauritius into the increasingly liberalised and globalised world economic environment. Put differently, the offshore sector contributes to a broadening of the international outlook of local economic agents who will play a vital role in integrating Mauritius into the increasingly liberal world economy. Perhaps, therein lies the principal interest of having an offshore centre at least for the time being.

M.O.B.A. Authority:

The MOBA Authority is a governmental agency set up by the M.O.B.A. Act of 1992. It is the centre and the channel through which all governmental agencies correspond with offshore entities. It is also the agency that grants licenses, permits or authorizations that may be required to carry out any forms of offshore business activities. The inspection and filing of documents and any other inquiries are carried out by the said authority.

The authority is managed by a board of governors chaired by the Minister of Finance.

The vice-chairman is the Governor of the Central Bank.

The address of the Authority is: 1st floor , Deramann Tower , 30 Sir William Newton Street

Port Louis, Mauritius.

Telephone: (230) 211 0494 / 0143 / 0478

Fax : (230) 211 3398 / 212 9459

E-Mail : mobaa@bow.intnet.mu

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Last Update: 14 September, 1999

Date on the Web: Thursday, January 22, 1998