These notes provide the reader with a checklist of all the regulatory hurdles that an applicant must cross before operating a business in the Turks & Caicos Islands.
Everyone operating a business in or from within the Islands, with the intention of earning a profit, must obtain a business license. For the vast majority of businesses the application must be made in one of forty-five (45) categories of business activities under the Businesses Licensing Ordinance. For the purpose of fees there are a total of sixty-five (65) fee classifications. On grant of a license, the fee payable is pro-rated from the date of the application to the end of the business licensing year (i.e. 31st March), such amount being based on the annual business license fee. Following the first year of operations the annual fee is payable on the first of April of each year and penalties for late payment bite for payments made after 30th April. Licenses need to be renewed annually, the fees for which range from $300.00 (e.g. farming and apartment rentals of fewer than five units) to thirteen thousand five hundred dollars (e.g. hotel accommodation of 100 bedrooms rooms or more).
Once obtained a license authorises the holder to engage in business activities within the category authorised by the license plus other activities reasonably incidental to those activities. Where the business is engaged in several distinct activities, a separate license must be obtained for all those activities that are separately categorised in the Business Licensing Regulations. If a distinct activity is not separately categorised, or if it is not incidental to the main activity, a business licence must be obtained in the "miscellaneous" category, covering all non-incidental activities.
Government policy delicately balances the need to attract foreign investment and skilled labour with the need to protect and preserve opportunities for Turks & Caicos Islanders. Of the sixty-five (6) fee classifications in the Business Licencing Regulations a list of twenty (20) are reserved for Belongers or Belonger-controlled businesses. A Belonger-controlled business is one where greater than fifty percent of the shares are owned by a Belonger. Examples of reserved activities are the operation of restaurants, sales agencies, retail sales, and contracting (ie petty, small, and medium sized contracting). It is possible for a non-Belonger business to obtain a business license in a reserved category but the applicant must show that there would be a substantial benefit to the community from the granting of such a license.
A business license application is made on a simple four-page form, the last page of which is guidance notes, and it is submitted to the Turks & Caicos Islands Investment Agency for processing .
There are certain sensitive business activities, a discussion of which is outside the scope of this note, that fall outside the Business Licensing Ordinance and that must be separately authorised. Applicants for those licenses undergo a more rigorous process. Banking business, insurance business, the provision of professional trustee services, and the provision of Corporate Management and Agency Services all require licenses under separate legislation. Applicants and applications for those licenses are thoroughly vetted by the Financial Services Commission. The competence and integrity of the beneficial owners and key management personnel are considered vital and necessary to protect the public and to prevent criminal use of the country's financial services system.
Other types of licenses
In addition to these obligations businesses need licenses to sell, distribute, or remove certain products from the country. Intoxicating liquors, for instance, is a controlled substance and vendors require a liquor license, in addition to their business license, to dispense it to the public.
Underneath this regulatory framework are obligations for certain professionals, in addition to the businesses that employ them, to be individually licensed. Medical practitioners and attorneys, for example, need to be individually licensed or admitted to practice (an exception being where they are employed by government).
Business licensing has gone through a number of changes in the last twelve months and current regulation is still in a state of flux. It is intended that this memorandum will be for general information and that the reader will secure specific advice if required.