The Republic of Mauritius, advantageously located at the crossroads of investments in the Indian Ocean region, has benefited from surprising socio-economic growth with a huge economic growth averaging 5% for the past 20 years (Mauritius Bright Future; Grand Baie Trust). This is the result of wary economic governance support by sound business and financial infrastructure with a reputation of trustworthiness, competence and integrity.
The Government initiated a wide range of incentive to attract investments, and as a result, the greater part of the Mauritian economy is accounted for. Mauritius has faced growth as an outstanding offshore financial service centre due to the fact that the legal and fiscal structure has been further strengthened through the performance of a series of up to date and user-friendly legislation and this fact is adding a new aspect to the economic prosperity of the country.
According to information that is available from the Ministry of Finance, the first double tax treaty by Mauritius was by Germany and the year the treaty was signed dates back to the 1978 but it was ratified in 19901. As of this year, the number of treaties signed comes to 35 and a series of treaties are under negotiation. Most of the treaties are based on model conventions established by international organisations such as the OECD (organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) or the United Nations, where the former accounts mainly for the interest of industrialised countries and the latter for those of less developed economies.
1: Annex 3: Summary of the features of the double taxation avoidance treaties from the Ministry of Finance.
The reason as to why the country started to sign DTTs is the same as other countries. That is, whenever funds are invested from one country to the other, the returns on investment are liable to taxation in both countries. The purpose of double taxation avoidance is to get rid of this double taxation between the two countries signatory of the treaty, this ought to be done without creating loopholes that permit tax evasion. In doing so, the treaty encourages the movement of capital and persons as well as boosting trade between the two countries. An argument similar to this was made by Dagan (2000), Radaelli (1997) and Gravelle (1998).
The Indian Tax treaty had reinforced the coming of Mauritius as main channel for FDI into India. In 2002, the Indian tax authorities due to suspected abuses by Indian-resident investors questioned the treaty. However, after a string of impressive court hearing, the status quo was brought back.
The Indonesian treaty lapsed for similar reasons on the 1st January 2005 after the Indonesian government informed the public about the termination in 2004. The matter was closed without any discussion regarding the issue “The reasons given were that, allowing an assessment and evaluation of the implementation of the treaty, the Indonesian government has concluded that there was an abuse that was inflicting a loss upon Indonesia. The letter referred specifically to those foreign companies that are registered in Mauritius as Global Business Licence companies and to our domestic legislation that enabled them to obtain tax dispensation or nullification on their business Income from Indonesia,” said the Government (source: www.lowtax.net/lowtax.html)
Most direct tax treaties were negotiated with FDI in mind (Manoj Pant Professor, JNU, 2006). Hence, one has a reason to believe that Mauritius went for DTTs for the same reason. Mauritius went for tax treaties so that investors investing in the country are comfortable. Treaties provide a structure for so that there is no or very minimal conflicts between the contracting parties. The treaties are also advantageous in the sense that it helps in signalling to investors that Mauritius is part of the “international” organisation and one can carry out business and investments there (Diane Ring(2006)).
Another reason as to why Mauritius favours DTTs is so that companies may get some relief from taxation in both the country of origin and the country it is investing in. In addition to that, with the varying tax systems around the world, no taxation scheme can guarantee an impartial capital export or import regime. DTTs also reduce tax avoidance, tax evasion and other more or less legal tax-saving strategies such as transfer pricing.
Mauritius launched its global business sector in 1992 and has concluded several tax treaties since long before that. The Government has set up a wide choice of incentives to attract investment and consequently, while the agricultural sector used to lead, tourism followed by textile production makes up a huge part of the economy of Mauritius. The legal and fiscal framework has been strengthened through a series of modern and user friendly legislation being into practice. This fact has helped Mauritius rise as a prominent offshore financial services centre.
On an international scale, the offshore industry has highly helped to bring forward the global financial structure. This chapter illustrates the activities, strengths and weaknesses of the offshore sector in Mauritius. It also depicts its role and growth throughout the last nine years.
In most countries, an offshore jurisdiction is often perceived as a conventional key to decrease disproportionate tax burdens levied on investors.
According to the International Monetary Fund (June 2000), “Offshore finance is, at its simplest, the provision of financial services by banks and other agents to non-residents.” Worldwide offshore activities have been one of the various famous issues which had attracted the attention of the international standards involved in the international regulatory system.
Over the years, Mauritius has diversified its economic activities from the sugarcane export through the manufacturing sector and has now become a nearly full-fledged offshore investment platform. Offshore business has been a useful tool for the financial integration of Mauritius and has greatly contributed to its economy.
The Financial Services Commission outlined that Mauritius “continued to develop as a world class financial services centre, focusing on high levels of service and international standards within a business-friendly and professional environment”. The Mauritian offshore sector has been able to impose its well-defined status as a valuable business spot.
In 1989, offshore Banking has been the start of the financial services in Mauritius when the first Offshore Banking Unit (OBU) was licensed. A governmental framework for non-Banking offshore institutions has been operating since 1992. At the time, the Mauritius Offshore Business Activities Authority (MOBAA) was launched to act as a regulatory body for all non-banking business activities.
Ever since, the offshore companies and fund registrations grew swiftly. List 1 in Appendix details the activities that the MOBAA consent to.
On May 15, 2001, the Financial Services Development Act was approved. It recognized the FSC as an institution reliable to perform all functions that were previously carried out by the MOBAA. Since then, the FSC has been motivated towards the consolidation of a flexible and robust regulatory environment for financial services. In August 2002, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has been established to fight against crime, alleged money-laundering and terrorism.
The key opportunity which hugely helped to the development of the Mauritian offshore sector is the network of tax treaties, especially with India. Double taxation agreements provided striking features to Mauritius as an appealing investment prospect. Mauritius has now attained a number of 35 tax treaties with the rest of the world. Thanks to India which has been promoted as the 2nd most attractive global FDI location from the World Investment Prospects Survey 2008-2010 published by United Nation Conference, Mauritius is being seen as a flourishing fund administration.
Offshore activities are carried out by various corporations in Mauritius which are explained below. The descriptions are largely inspired by FSC annual reports and the Income Tax Act.
Under the Financial Services Development Act 2001, “a global business is defined as a corporation holding either a Category 1 or a Category 2 business licence.”
According to the FSC, a GBC1 is a “corporation which undertakes any activities listed in the Second Schedule of the FDSA 2001 which is carried on from within Mauritius with persons all of whom are resident outside Mauritius and which is conducted in foreign currency.” If properly managed and controlled, a GBC1 might qualify as a tax resident and will take advantage of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) network. This provides a golden opportunity for international tax planning.
If a private company does not conduct any business with the people residing in Mauritius and thus does not deal in Mauritian Rupee and is “incorporated under the Companies Act 2001”, then it is said to hold a Category 2 GBL. A GBC2 is non-resident by definition and thus cannot benefit from the network of DTAAs available in Mauritius. Better confidentiality being one of its main advantages, a GBC2 is very efficient in holding and managing private assets, given that the company is properly handled.
Source: HSBC MAURITIUS: A GUIDE TO GLOBAL BUSINESS
Since the initiation of the Global Business Sector (Offshore Sector), its evolution has been quite evident. The number of both GBC 1 and GBC 2 companies has been kept increasing as shown in the above figure of Evolution of Global Business Companies.
-15% (Effective 3%)
-No Capital Gain Tax
-No Capital Gain Tax
-No Withholding tax on dividends
-No Withholding tax on dividends
-Access to double taxation treaties
-No access to double taxation treaties
-No minimum required shared Capital
-No minimum required Capital Shares
-No bearer shares
-No bearer shares
-No par value shares allowed
-Par value shares allowed
– At least one director and one shareholder required
– At least one director and one shareholder required
-No corporate director allowed
-corporate director allowed
-At least one director has to be from Mauritius
– Director does not have to be a resident of Mauriitus
-Annual General Meeting Mandotory
-Annual General Meeting Not Required
-Audited annual account to be filed with FSC
-No preparation, filiing and publication requirements for annual accounts
-Annual returns needs to be filed
– Qualified Company Secretary resident of Mauritius
– The company decides whether to have a resident secretary or not
– Registered Office in Mauritius to hold book and records
– Registered Agent in Mauritius to hold statutory books and records
– 7-15 days of incorporation period
– incorporation period of 5 days
– Continuation/re-domiciliation from/to another jurisdiction allowed
– Continuation/redomiciliation from/to another jurisdiction allowed
– May be active in banking, insurance, fund management and any activity involving public money
– Cannot be active in banking, insurance, fund management and any activity involving public money
A PCC is a special type of offshore entity. It allows for the legal separation of assets attributable to each cell of the company whether it is owned by another company or a single person. The procedures for a PCC to be licensed and incorporated are the same as for a GBC1 and can also be converted into a normal GBC1.
This type of offshore vehicle can be set up by either residents or non residents. They provide a legal and efficient way of securing one’s asset. Trusts can take various forms; charitable trusts, discretionary trusts, purpose trusts or trading trusts. Qualified global business can be carried by a Trust after obtaining a GBC1 license. A trust may not be able to obtain a GBC2 licence.
The Code de Commerce Amendment Act of 1985 allows for the formation of a société en nom collectif which can be translated as partnership and société en commandite simple which can be translated as limited partnership. Both are used in order to control and plan investment in the global business sector. The Finance Act 1996 allows the sociétés to benefit from the DTAAs.
It is among the countries which have recorded a significant improvement in apparent levels of corruption, according to the 2010 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. Mauritius is ranked 39th out of 178 countries (source: https://www.transparencia.org.es), and is second in Africa, after Botswana. Corruption is not seen as an obstacle to foreign direct investment. Hence to keep up with the progress of FDI, the government must make sure that corruption is fully combated.
Greenfield investment refers to the fact that companies from abroad (multinationals open up branches or subsidiaries in Mauritius. This acts as a capital inflow to the country, thus such investments may be encouraged to keep FDI sound.
Evolving from employment quantity to employment quality
Just going on creating employment is not enough to improve the state’s economic position. Quality of the employment provided also need to be considered. For example, just recently, the government started advertising about the number of job vacancies in different sectors, mainly in textile industry. This is employment quantity. There are many qualified persons, those possessing degrees in science, history and others, who are unemployed. Employment provided of these people would be employment quality.
Economic upgrading is important as a next step to industrial change. It is important to consider a country’s investment strategy. Developing the financial markets may help to attract FDI as the World Investment Report estimates that for every FDI dollar, 3 dollars are raised locally.
The government also needs to upgrade existing FDI in medium term, that is, it needs to let firms think regionally, after establishing linkages, raise education levels, and tap niche markets.
Developing countries sign double taxation treaties (DTTs) in order to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI) (Eric Neumayer, February 2006). The same thing can be said in the case of Mauritius. The latter restricts its capability of taxing the income of foreign investors so that more FDI is the reward. If an international company is faced with double taxation, this can represent a hindrance to foreign investment. Through double taxation treaties, the incentives for investment are a low corporate tax rate or exemption from tax, exemption from customs and excise duties on imports of equipment and raw materials; exemption from tax on dividends and capital gains; a low rate of 5% registration duty for notarial deeds; free repatriation of profits, dividends and capital; and reduced tariffs for electricity and water. Even for Mauritius, the use of fiscal incentives (tax concessions, cash grants and specific subsidies) is standard just like other offshore jurisdictions. Mauritius signs DTT for various reasons. Investors originating from the countries with which DTTs were signed invest in Mauritius, they benefit from the DTTs as the country provides them with safety measures and steadiness with regards to the issue of taxation. The country also commits to granting certain relative standards such as treating foreign investors better than national investors. Thus, this should be acting as motivation for them to put in funds in the economy. As a result, one would be expecting FDI to be quite high, both the inflow and outflow.
DTT MAURITIUS.. TABLE
The Mauritian offshore sector has created a well-defined position in the domestic development. Since its establishment in 1992, it has continued expanding at a growing pace.
In order to assess the impact of the offshore sector on the economy data from various reports of the FSC and the CSO will be analyzed.
The data considered is based on four factors:
1. The contribution to GDP
2. The evolution in the employment levels
3. The growth of GBCs
4. The financial performance of NBFIs.
The link that exists between the offshore sector and the economy can be studied by considering the contribution of the financial services to GDP. GDP is defined as the grand total money value of all goods and services produced in an economy over a specific period of time.
In the beginning of the millennium, textile was the predominant agent that added most to GDP; nevertheless, the above table shows that financial intermediation also has its share. In 2000, Financial Intermediation accounted for 9.6% of GDP and Textile represented 11.9%.
However in 2008 the former represented 10.9% of GDP while Textile stood for 5.4%, or approximately half the value of Financial Intermediation. In nominal terms, Financial Intermediation grew by 150.2% in nine years from 2000 to 2008. This impressive growth is the result of attractive investment incentives and structuring offshore regimes.
Financial Intermediation can be broken down into three parts; the Insurance sector, the Banking sector and other. The latter is believed to account for the offshore sector. As shown in the table below, financial services sector, whether it is banks, insurance or other, has continuously increased and led to constant GDP growth.
The share of the offshore sector in the GDP increased from Rs1950 millions in 2005 to Rs 2910 millions in 2008, which represents a nominal increase of 49.2% in only 3 years. This is due to the independence of the FSC and the liberalizing of the international Global Business Companies system in 2007.
As from its establishment, the offshore business has not stopped expanding and contributed to the development of the economy. While in 2000 the offshore sector represented 0.82% of GDP, in 2008 it grew to reach 1.25%.
Another way of analyzing the contribution of the offshore sector to GDP is by considering the sectoral growth rates of GDP.
The table above shows that contrarily to other sectors of the economy such as Sugarcane and Textile, Financial Intermediation sustained a positive growth rate from 5.8% in 2002 to 10.1% in 2008 and for most of these years the growth has been greater than those of the other sectors.
In fact, the positioning of the island as a business hub, the competent human capital base and network of tax treaties continue to be the key tools to accomplishment of that sector.
The table shows that the offshore sector has been performing very well for all these years, with an ongoing positive growth rate .The average growth rate of the offshore sector was 11.8%. This might be due to a good and strong supervision and efficiency from the part of companies.
Another direct impact of the offshore sector is the striking job creation that an international financial center may provide for the natives.
As shown in the table above employment in Financial Intermediation keeps on increasing. Originally, the emphasis was focused on employment creation in manufacturing rather than expansion of a financial services centre; but this has progressively changed. From 2000 to 2008, the increase in employment was of 51.2%. The insurance sector is the largest employer in the non banking financial institutions.
The figures presented above comprise of local and expatriate staff, but the sector depends more local staff than expatriates. In the offshore sector most of the people employed work in Management companies or in Corporate trustees. The share that Financial Intermediation represents in total employment also did not cease to increase during all these years.
A useful indicator to identify the impact of the offshore sector to the Mauritian economy might be to evaluate the number of licences that have been granted allowing companies to operate in Mauritius. New companies help to develop innovative activities and expand the existing ones in the offshore sector.
The table below shows that Mauritius has developed a niche industry in the increasingly competitive global business sector. The sector demonstrated a total of 36711 licensed GBCs in 2008.
Throughout the years, the number of licensed GBC1 kept on increasing. Its growth rate was continuously positive. The number of GBC1 almost doubled in 2008 as compared to 2001. In 2008 there was a fall in the number of license granted to GBC2 from an 11.88% increase in 2007 to a 9.12% increase in 2008. This could be attributable to the financial crisis.
Even though, it was predicted that the credit crunch would have no impact on Mauritius, it was found inevitable that its offshore sector would be hit as less foreign investors came to Mauritius. However, the average growth rate was maintained showing a strategy building exercise to face the numerous challenges.
When considering the value of the assets and profits as well as the turnover of NBFIs, one can assess the impact that this sector has on the economy.
As can be seen from the table above, whether it is for GBC, insurance or for other NBFIs, assets, turnover and profit kept on increasing.
In two years time the assets of insurance companies in Mauritius increased by approximately 27.5% while the profits of GBC almost tripled. Though it is not present in the table, the total value of the assets of the NBFIs represents a very high percentage of GDP illustrating that Mauritius is now slowly diverging from its other sectors and emphasizing on Financial Intermediation which acts as a route for investment.
Insert FDI CTRY ANALYSIS
The various activities and evolution of the offshore sector have been targeted. The above figures in short reveal that the offshore sector as well as the whole of the financial services sector in Mauritius is in good health and is very likely to sustain it.
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