Income is not taxed in the Bahamas.
Capital gains. No tax is levied on capital gains.
Stamp duty. Transfers of real property are subject to a stamp duty at a graduated rate from 4% to 10%, depending on the amount or value of the consideration involved.
Business license fee. Self-employed persons are subject to an average annual business license fee of up to 1% of revenue. The rate varies according to revenues (turnover). The license year is a 12-month reporting period that coincides with either the calendar year or a fiscal year. After it is selected, the business license reporting year may not change. Businesses with turnover of less than BSD50,000 must pay a business license fee of BSD100.
All employees and employers must contribute to the national in surance scheme. Contribution rates are based on the amount of weekly or monthly wages, up to a maximum insurable wage ceiling of BSD620 weekly, BSD2,687 monthly or BSD32,244 annually. The total contribution rate is 9.8% of the employees’ wages, of which 3.9% is withheld from the employee and 5.9% is paid by the employer.
The Bahamas has not entered into any double tax treaties. The Bahamas has entered into Tax Information Exchange Agreements with several countries, including, but not limited to, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.
On 3 November 2014, the Bahamas and the United States signed and released a Model 1 Intergovernmental Agreement for the implementation of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.
To enter the Bahamas, visitors from countries other than the United States or Canada must hold a passport that is valid for six months beyond the dates of travel and/or a valid Bahamas visa. All visitors entering the Bahamas must have return or onward tickets. If visitors intend to stay for more than a few days, they may be asked to provide evidence of financial support.
Visas are required for all foreign nationals entering the Bahamas except the following:
- British Commonwealth citizens and landed immigrants of Canada for visits not exceeding 30 days, if they possess Form 100
- US citizens (including those from Hawaii) entering as bona fide visitors for less than eight months
- US residents (non-citizens) for visits of up to 30 days
- Citizens of the following countries who have valid passports for stays up to the stated periods:
— Eight months: Belgium, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey
— Three months: Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, South Africa and Sweden
— Fourteen days: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela
Citizens of all other countries require both a valid passport and visa to enter the Bahamas.
The right of expatriates to work in the Bahamas is restricted and regulated by the Bahamas government through the Department of Immigration. The government attempts to ensure that immigrants do not create unfair employment competition for Bahamians. An expatriate may not be offered a position for which a suitably qualified Bahamian is available.
No quota system exists for work permits. A work permit application is not considered if the employee is already in the Bahamas as a visitor.
The Department of Immigration considers the employment of a non-Bahamian if the prospective employee would be an asset to the Bahamas, and if the following conditions are met:
- The employer has advertised and interviewed locally and has found no suitable Bahamian to fill the position.
- The employer has obtained a vacancy certificate stating that no qualified Bahamian is registered who might fill the position.
Normally, it is the employer’s responsibility to submit the work permit application for the prospective employee. This includes all necessary documentation, along with a copy of the local job advertisement, the results of interviews with local applicants and a vacancy certificate. Employment may commence only after the work permit is approved and the fee is paid.
Cost of work permits. The annual fee for a work permit ranges from BSD350 for farm workers to BSD10,000 for senior professionals, such as executives. The fee is payable on the granting of the work permit.
Duration of initial work permit and renewals. A work permit is usually issued for one year, but may be issued for a longer period for certain key positions under contract. Contracts should indicate that renewal is subject to obtaining immigration permission. Many employment contracts stipulate that the employee is expected to train or be replaced by a suitable Bahamian within a stipulated period of time.
The renewal of a work permit on expiration is not automatic. Application for renewal must be made, and generally permits are not renewed for expatriates who have been employed in the same capacity for more than five years. However, the government exercises some flexibility with respect to this policy and considers various mitigating circumstances.
The Bahamas does not issue permanent work permits, but does issue permanent residence permits that grant the right to work. For further details, see Section G.
Other important stipulations. Work permits are issued for a specific position only. Changes in position within an organization require the issuance of a new work permit, which is subject to the same conditions stated above.
An employer must inform the Department of Immigration within 30 days if an international employee is no longer employed. An expatriate who ceases to be employed must take his or her work permit to the department for cancellation within seven days after ceasing employment.
For each expatriate work permit issued, employers must post a bond to repatriate the employee and his or her dependents, if necessary, and to pay any public charges incurred by the employee.
Due to the complexity of the employment confirmation process, it is recommended that employers submit all applications three to four months in advance of the desired start of employment.
Temporary residence. Individuals making the Bahamas their temporary home may apply for annual residence permits. The annual cost of this permit is BSD1,000 for the head of a household and BSD25 for a spouse and each dependent. A person attending an institute of higher education in the Bahamas must pay BSD25 per year for an annual residence permit. Holders of annual residence permits may not work in the Bahamas under any circumstances.
Overseas investors who acquire residential property in the Bahamas are eligible for Home Owners’ Residence Cards, which are renewable annually. The annual cost of the card is BSD500. The card facilitates entry into the Bahamas and entitles the owner, spouse and minor children to remain in the Bahamas for the period covered by the card. This card is most appropriate for seasonal residents. Holders of the card may seek local employment.
Permanent residence. Permanent residence with the right to work is typically reserved for spouses of Bahamians or overseas individuals who can demonstrate strong financial and family ties to the Bahamas.
Male spouses of Bahamians may apply for permanent residence after five years of marriage. Females married to Bahamians may apply any time after marriage. The cost of a certificate of permanent residence for the spouse of a Bahamian is BSD250.
A permanent residence permit without the right to work may be suitable for foreign nationals who wish to reside in the Bahamas permanently. The one-time cost of a permanent residence permit ranges from BSD1,000 to BSD10,000 for the head of a household, depending on the length of prior residency in the Bahamas. This type of permit is suitable for retirees who plan to spend most of their time in the Bahamas or for persons who will not be conducting business in the Bahamas. Applicants must provide evidence of adequate financial support, and character and financial references. The Bahamas government gives accelerated consideration to owners of Bahamian residences valued at BSD500,000 or more.
Foreign nationals holding permanent residence certificates may have their spouses and dependent children under 18 years of age endorsed on the certificate at the time of the original application or at a subsequent date.
Family and personal considerations
Family members. Spouses and dependents of expatriates holding valid work permits should apply for annual residence permits as outlined in Section G.
Driver’s permits. Visitors to the Bahamas may drive legally using their home country driver’s licenses for up to three months. However, holders of work permits must have Bahamian driver’s licenses when they start to work.
Drivers holding valid licenses issued outside the Bahamas may present the license and receive a Bahamian license for BSD20 without completing verbal or written examinations. First-time drivers must take verbal and driving examinations.