Register your business

The first step for any investor is to incorporate a company. This is done at the Commerce and Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). There are three available company types:

  • External company: allows an existing company that is legally established in another country to carry out business in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The personal liability of shareholders is limited to the value of their shareholding.
  • Domestic company: establishes a company in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The personal liability of shareholders is limited to the value of their shareholding.
  • Sole proprietor business: allows an individual or group of individual to carry out business in their private capacity without creating a separate legal personality. Owners are personally liable for the business's liabilities.

Further information on available company types and procedures is mentioned below.

Once incorporated, all businesses are required to enrol at the Inland Revenue and at the National Insurance Service.

All businesses that conduct commercial or industrial activities must apply for a Trader's or Industrial License at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Commerce, in accordance with the The Price and Distribution of Goods Act.

Sole proprietor business

Investors are required to submit a business name application form to CIPO. The registration fee is EC$ 250. Standard processing time is 2 working days.

Find out more...

Relevant documents Business name registration form

External company business

Investors are required to follow the following steps:

  • Request for a name search and reservation.

Once the name has been confirmed:

  • Fill in the application form.
  • Submit a notarised copy of each of the corporate instruments of the company.
  • Submit a statutory declaration of a director of the company verifying the particulars set out in the application form.
  • Submit a statutory declaration of an Attorney-at-law confirming compliance with section 344.
  • If necessary, submit a power of attorney and consent to act as attorney form, empowering a resident of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to act on the director's behalf.

Standard processing time is 2 to 5 working days.


Domestic company business

Investors are required to follow the following steps:

  • Request for a name search and reservation.

Once the name has been confirmed:

  • Fill out the application form.
  • Submit articles of incorporation.
  • Submit a notice of address or change of address of registered office form.
  • Submit a notice of directors or change of directors form.
Standards processing time is 2 to 5 working days.

Find out more...

Relevant documents Articles of Incorporation By Laws (fro profit)
Relevant institutions Commerce and Intellectual Property Office

Investment concessions

Investors can avail of a wide range of incentives depending on sector of activity. Incentives include tax holidays, rates of depreciation, loss carry-forwards, and customs duty exemptions. Requests for investment concessions are approved by Cabinet with an application process through Invest SVG. Full information on the incentives provided is detailed in the Acts below.

  • The Fiscal Incentives Act: harmonizes fiscal incentives to industry and contains a wide range of incentives to traditional inventors in the areas of manufacturing and light manufacturing sectors.
  • The Hotels Aid Act: provides incentives for the renovation, refurbishment and expansion of existing hotels, ad the construction of new hotels.
  • The Information Communication Technology Incentives Act: reduces impediments to investment and provides incentives to encourage the growth of this sector.
  • Small Business Development Act: provides incentives to small and micro businesses.

Invest SVG

Invest SVG was established by the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Sustainable Development with responsibility to attract and facilitate local and foreign direct investment. Invest SVG also offers services in investment promotion, facilitation, research and information development. It carries out advocacy activities in order to improve the investment climate. It also manages applications for investment concessions.


Environment impact assesment

Any investment project with an environmental or social impact requires a environment impact assessment. The process for EIAs is subsumed into the planning process under the Physical Planning Department within the Physical Planning and Development Board (see Land tab). 

The department determines whether an EIA is required and makes the final decision on approval of projects based on the findings of EIA.

With regards to coastal developments, it should be noted that beaches remain public property and public access must be maintained.

Find out more...

Relevant documents Town and Country Planning Act

What investors think

No major issues have been recorded with company registration and it is seen as a smooth process. However, investors are advised to use a lawyer so as to save multiple visits.

The environmental impact assessment process is seen is smooth.

Population and skills

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has an estimated population of 110,000.

The secondary school enrolment rate is 85 percent. 

Post secondary, options within the country include:

  • Vocational Technical Institute
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Hospitality Institute (SVGHI)
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Community College (SVGCC)
  • National Centre for Technological Innovation (NCTI)
  • University of the West Indies Open Campus (UWI)

Vincentians also have access to the University of the West Indies campuses within the region. The workforce also includes graduates from the US, UK, Venezuela, Taiwan Province of China, Russia and Turkey.

Find out more...

Relevant documents Education Act of 2006

Employment and contracts

The Protection of Employment Act governs the employment and contract termination of employees. Contracts are awarded for fixed periods with an initial probation period not to exceed six months. 

The law allows for the termination of employment for the following reasons:

  • good cause, such as misconduct;
  • with the permission of the Labour Commissioner
  • illness
  • redundancy 

Termination with good cause includes being found guilty of misconduct or a criminal offence relating to the employment or lacking the capability or qualification to perform required duties, or if the employment is found to be in contravention of the law.

An employer may petition the Labour Commissioner for permission to terminate the services of an employee if that employer is reasonably unable to continue the employment of that individual. Termination granted under this process is deemed to be termination with good cause.

An employer may terminate an employee if a medical practitioner certifies that the employee is incapable of performing his duties due to physical or mental illness which has been for a protracted period of six months and is likely to be permanent.

An employer may terminate for redundancy where a restructuring is required for economic reasons as specified in the law. In this case, consultation with a relevant trade union is required.

Find out more...

Relevant documents Protection of Employment Act
Relevant institutions Department of Labour

Wages

The table below provides an estimate of  the type wages paid to various categories of workers.

The Department of Labour prescribes a minimum wage of between EC$ 5 to EC$ 48 an hour, depending on the category of workers.

The work week is up to six days with a maximum of 8 hours per day.

Prices

UnitValueYearComment
Senior ManagerUSD3000-35002018Per month, plus allowances and other benefits
Senior ManagerUSD3000-35002018Per month, plus allowances and other benefits
Middle ManagerUSD25002018Per month, plus allowances
EngineerUSD25002018Per month, plus allowances
Graduate EntryUSD1200-15002018Per month
Skilled Technician USD12002018Per month
Office AssistantUSD600-8002018Per month
Shop AssistantUSD500-7002018Per month
DriverUSD6002018Per month
Security GuardUSD600-8002018Per month
Unskilled labourer USD5002018Per month

Find out more...

Relevant documents Wages Council Act Protection of Employment Act
Relevant institutions Department of Labour

Non-wage benefits

The law requires the following non-wage benefits to be provided to employees.

Non wage benefits provided by employer

Non-wage benefits required to be provided by an employer

Benefit Amount paid
Sick Leave 14 day anually
Vacation Leave 14-16 days annually after 1 year
Overtime Time and a half
Overtime (public holidays) Double time
Severance pay for each year of continuous service from two to ten years 2 weeks per year
Severance pay for each year of continuous service from eleven to twenty-five years 3 weeks per year
Severance pay for each year of continuous service in excess of twenty-five years 4 weeks per year

Social security contributions

Every new employer must register with the National Insurance Service within seven days of employing the first employee. The employer must submit an Application for Registration as an Employer (Form R3) in order to obtain a registration number. Employer and employee contributions are based on insurable earnings, which correspond to all earnings up to EC$51,996 per year. The NIS includes the following benefits:

Sickness benefits

An employee who is between 16 and pension age, has been employed immediately before the illness and who has paid at least 26 weekly contributions, and at least 8 contributions in the 13 weeks before the illness, is entitled to sickness benefits. An amount of 65 percent of the employee's average insurable income will be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks of illness.

Maternity benefits

A pregnant woman between the ages of 16 and pensionable age, who has been employed for at least 30 contribution weeks, and who has paid at least 20 weekly contributions immediately before the date of  the claim is entitled to a maternity allowance of 65 percent of average weekly wage for a period not exceeding 13 consecutive weeks. There is also a maternity grant for pregnant mothers who are claiming on the contributions of her partner's NIS contribution. A one off amount of EC$600.00 is paid to the mother as a maternity grant.

Age benefit

Any person who has attained the normal retirement age, between 60 and 65 depending on date of birth, is provided with reasonable financial support upon retirement. The normal retirement age will progressively increase to 65 by 2028.

Invalidity benefit

This benefit is paid to anyone who has been medically declared an invalid and who is likely to be disabled and is under pensionable age. The invalidity benefit can take the form of a one-off lump sum invalidity grant or a weekly or monthly payment of an invalidity pension of not less than 30 percent of the annual insurable income of the individual (and not greater than 60 percent) paid until the individual attains pension age at which point the invalidity pension would be converted to an age benefit.


Social security contributions

Rate of Contribution %
Employer 5.5%
Employees 4.5%

Find out more...

Relevant documents Employer Registration form Form C5 National Insurance Act
Relevant institutions National Insurance Service

Work permits

Requirements differ depending on the person being employed.

OECS nationals do not require a work permit to work or operate a business.

CARICOM nationals require a skills certificate issued by their government. On arriving in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines they can start work and have six months to receive an indefinite leave to stay from the Ministry of National Security, for which a EC$960 per year is payable.

Other nationals must apply simultaneously for a work permit and residence permit (an investor needs a self-employed work permit) for a maximum initial period of two years. Without a residence permit, work permits are only valid for six months. Work permits can be applied for at the Office of the Prime Minister before arrival. Employers must show that the position was advertised and that no suitable candidate could be found locally.

Documents to be submitted include:

  • The completed work permit application form.
  • Letter from the employer.
  • Certified copies of the passport.
  • Proof that the position applied for has been advertised.
  • Police record
  • A non-refundable application fee of EC$200.00 and fee of between EC$700 and EC$2,400 depending on duration required.

Find out more...

Relevant documents Work Permit Application form
Relevant institutions Office of the Prime Minister

What investors think

Investors noted that there was sometimes a need to bring staff from other countries in the region, when certain skills were required, and this may need to be factored in.

No problems were raised with regards to obtaining work permits.

Electricity

The Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Electricity Services (VINLEC) is responsible for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. Electricity on the islands is 220 volts and is generally stable and reliable. Electricity is currently approximately 79 percent from fossil fuels, 15 percent comprised from hydro and 1 percent from solar.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is aiming to increase the share of solar to 20 percent and is pursuing the construction of a geothermal facility that would contribute 60 percent by 2021.

Peak time electricity demand is currently 23 MW. It is estimated that geothermal generation has a potential of 250 MW.

Cost of electricity

UnitValueYearComment
Domstic, 50 units or less42.5 cents/kWhXCD2011Minimum charge of $5.00 per month. VAT of 16% applicable on consumption greater than 200kWh.
Domestic, More than 50 units50 cents/kWhXCD2011Minimum charge of $5.00 per month. VAT of 16% applicable on consumption greater than 200kWh.
Commercial, all units54 cents/kWhXCD2011Minimum charge of $15.00 per month. VAT of 16% on energy charge.
Industrial all units45 cents/kWhXCD2011VAT of 16% on energy charge.

Water

The Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA), established in 1970, under the revised Central Water and Sewerage Authority Act of 1991, operates as a semi-autonomous public sector enterprise under the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment. It has three main functions in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines:

  • Water supply: treatment, transmission and distribution of potable water to domestic, commercial, shipping, and government customers.
  • Sewerage: management and operation of two sewerage systems that serve the central business district of Kingstown and the Arnos Vale Housing Scheme respectively.
  • Solid waste: treatment of solid waste.

Prices

UnitValueYearComment
Domestic, smallXCD$10.00Sewage collection
Domestic, mediumXCD$20.00Sewage collection
Domestic, largeXCD$30.00Sewage collection
Commercial, smallXCD$125.00Sewage collection
Commercial, mediumXCD$300.00Sewage collection
Commercial, largeXCD$500.00Sewage collection
Domestic, mainlandXCD$11.00Environmental charges
Domestic, GrenadinesXCD$10.00Environmental charges
Commercial, mainland smallXCD$25.00Environmental charges
Commercial, mainland mediumXCD$45.00Environmental charges
Commercial, mainland largeXCD$85.00Environmental charges
Commercial, Grenadines smallXCD$15.00Environmental charges
Commercial, Grenadines mediumXCD$60.00Environmental charges
Commercial, Grenadines largeXCD$500.00Environmental charges
Per 1000 gallonsXCD$15.00Small commercial buildings
Per 1000 gallonsXCD$22.00Large commercial buildings
Per 1000 gallonsXCD$40.00Ship charges

Telecommunications

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a stable and reliable telecommunication infrastructure supported by a fibre-optic network. There are two main providers of telecommunications services that include; mobile and fixed telephony and broadband internet services. 

The National Telecommunication Regulatory Commission is the agency responsible for the regulation of the telecommunication providers in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. 

Prices

UnitValueYearComment
LandlineXCD.06Rate per minute calling landlines
LandlineXCD.49Rate per minute calling mobiles
Digicel mobile XCD.99Prepaid rates per minute that apply to calling both on and off network
Flow mobileXCD$1.00 Prepaid rates per minute that apply to calling both on and off network
Internet 3 MbXCD$95.00Per month
Internet 12 MbXCD$135.00Per month
Internet 25 MbXCD$155.00Per month
Internet 50 MbXCD$225.00Per month
Internet 100 MbXCD$355.00Per month

Find out more...

Transport infrastructure

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a reliable transport infrastructure that includes paved roads within each island, and a ferry service between the islands. The country also has five airports with local connections. The recently built main airport on Saint Vincent has direct connections to the US and Canada. 

Road

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a very extensive road network, linking all communities on the island together. A drive to the northern part of the island is very scenic, taking travelers to parts of the interior as well as along the cost. Motorists drive on the left side of the road and the predominant types of vehicles used are left-hand drives.

Air

Argyle International Airport

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a vibrant network of 5 airports that consist of three small airports on the Grenadine Isnalds of Bequia, Mustique and Union Island, a modern Jet port on Canouan and a brand new state of the art International Airport at Argyle on mainland Saint Vincent.The airports facilitate reliable local travel as well as limited regional travel in the case of the Grenadines and some Caribbean islands. The Canouan Jetport, apart from facilitating local and regional flights also accommodates some direct flights from specific international gateways. The recently commissioned Argyle International Airport on mainland Saint Vincent is the main airport, that accomodates local, regional and international flights.

Maritime

Port Kingstown

Port Kingstown, by being the gateway to the commercial seaborne trade of capital Kingstown, handles a wide range of vessel traffic - from deep-sea cargo liner services to inter-island ferries to cruise ships. Cargo traffic is made up of containers and break-bulk goods with a limited amount of cement and lumber. In addition, vehicles - both new and refurbished models from Japan - are shipped in by dedicated car carriers on a monthly basis. Port Kingstown also focuses on inter-island trade with the Grenadines and other destinations. Inter-island vessels are handled at the six-berth schooner basin while passenger/roll-on roll-off vessels use the four-berth ferry terminal.

Port Elizabeth, Bequia

St.Vincent also has a deep-water container terminal just outside capital Kingstown - a purpose-built facility at the Campden Park Industrial Estate, one of the islands main centres of light industry. The terminal has a 100 meter long quay with two approach bridges measuring 50 meters by 60 meters. These bridges allow free circulation of traffic between the quay and the stacking area. Depth alongside is 12.0 meters - deeper than Port Kingstown -  allowing vessels of up to 12,0000 dwt to berth. The stacking area has 540 ground slots with plug-in for up to 12 refrigerated containers.

The four largest islands - Bequia, Mustique, Union Island and Canouan - have all been designated ports of entry in addition to Kingstown and Campden Park on mainland St.Vincent. Port Elizabeth has been declared ISPS compliant, the international code for security of ships and port facilities, in July 2004

Transport costs

The prices listed below represent an approximated average costs for the transportation of the listed container sizes from various location. Prices vary from among shippers.

Prices

UnitValueYearComment
Florida to Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesUSD2500201920 Ft Container
Florida to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines USD4300201940 Ft Container
Florida to Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesUSD4600201945 Ft Container
Canada to Saint VIncent and the GrenadinesUSD4800201920 Ft Container
United Kingdom to Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesUSD3800201920 Ft Container
United Kingdom to Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesUSD4800201940 Ft Container
China to Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesUSD5500201920 Ft Container
China to Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesUSD7000201940 Ft Container

Other costs

For indicative purposes, a basket of goods and services that investors may face is included below.

Prices

UnitValueYearComment
WaterXCD4.5420181.5 litre
MilkXCD11.5020181 litre
SugarXCD3.0020182 lbs
FlourXCD3.6520182 kg
RiceXCD10.3320182 kg
Local whole chickenXCD7.232018lb
Local muttonXCD13.852018lb
Local minced beefXCD12.602018lb
Coca ColaXCD9.9920182 litres
BeerXCD4.5020180.5 litre
Imported beerXCD7.0020180.5 litre
PetrolXCD12.022019per gallon
DieselXCD11.502019per gallon
CementXCD21.75201847 lbs

What investors think

Electricity outages are rare, although a backup generator is recommended. Overall, investors felt that energy costs should be lower. The water supply is reported as good and drinkable on Saint Vincent island.

With regards to freight transport, concerns were raised around shipping times to export markets and the frequent need for transhipment.

Types of land

Mount Wynne/Peter's Hope
Lands in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are either owned by the state or by private individuals. Investors wishing to purchase land from private individuals can do so through direct transactions with land owners. The sale of state lands is the responsibility of National Properties Limited, a wholly state-owned company.

Acquisition procedures

Land can be acquired from private individuals or from the government through National Properties Ltd. Land transactions are subject to stamp duty.

Non-nationals, wishing to acquire lands, must first apply, through an Attorney-at-law for an Alien Land-Holding License to the Office of the Prime Minister, for which there is both non-refundable application fee of EC$2,500 and a further annual fee based on property value. The granting of the license is approved by Cabinet.

Find out more...

Relevant documents Alien Land-Holding Act

Land costs

The cost of land is based on the going market value. For tax purposes, the valuation department  keeps for their internal purposes a record of the sale of lands across the country but this is in no way an indication of the price of lands. Typical land values are indicated in the table below.

Prices

Construction permit procedures

Every investor who intends to undertake construction of any sort must seek planing approval from the Physical Planning and Development Board via its Physical Planning Department. The Board has representation from relevant ministries and receives their recommendations.

In the case of large construction that is costly and would take a long time, an investor can acquire an "approval in principle". 

The overall process can take up to four months if no additional documents are required.

Any development involving a jetty into the sea requires a lease for seabed from the Surveys Department. 

Find out more...

Relevant documents Town and country planning Act
Relevant institutions Physical Planning Division

Steps in the permit application process

The application for building permit process can be divided into six steps, and by law can take up to a maximum of 4 months for approval to be granted. If after four months a response has not been received from the Physical Division, it can be concluded that the application for building permit has not been approved. 


Step 1: The application is lodged at the Physical Planning Division. This application can include design drawings, environmental impact assessment, social impact assessment, alien land-holding license (if the entity is foreign) and other documents relevant to the construction of the project.


Step 2: The application once lodged is processed by the Physical Planning Division. This processing consists primarily of an assessment of the application to ensure that all the relevant documents are included in the application. At this stage a checklist is compiled. Once it is determined at this stage that all the relevant documents are included, the applicant is required to pay the relevant fees at the Treasury Department and return the receipt at the Physical Planning Division. The date the receipt confirming payment, is the date that the application is deemed to be officially submitted.


Step 3: This step has two processes running simultaneously. The field investigation of the site where personnel from the Physical Planning Division visit the proposed site of construction and make their assessments at the same time as a review of conformity with the requirements stipulated by the Town and Country Planning Act. This process can result in two outcomes. It can be determined that there are no issues with the application, in which case the application goes on to the next step or, it can be determined that there are issues with the application and additional information can be requested. In case of the latter where additional information is requested, there is a reset of the clock regarding the 4 month timeline of the process. 


Step 4: Once the Physical Planning Department concludes that there are no issues with the application, the application is then recommended to the Physical Planning Board for approval.


Special economic zones

The Export Free Zones Act of 1999 provides for the designation or establishment of export free zones. The zones allow for the duty-free import of inputs for processing and export. Full relief is also provided on income and sales tax.

Investors wanting to set up businesses in such designated areas should contact the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning, Sustainable Development and Information Technology.

There are currently no export free zones in operation.

What investors think

No issues have been reported regarding the transfer and acquisition of land. However, the annual payment required for the Alien Land-Holding License is perceived as an effective tax on foreign ownership of land.

Tax introduction and registration

The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) is responsible for the  collection of taxes. This department is guided by the Income Tax Act 2009 revised edition CAP 435. The main areas of taxes administered by the IRD are corporate income tax, value added tax (VAT), pay as you earn (PAYE), withholding tax and the climate resilience levy.

A newly registered business or company must must apply for a taxpayer identification number at the Inland Revenue Department.

The fiscal year can be either the calendar year or any 12-month period. 

A number of incentives exist (see Get started tab).

In case of disagreement with the Inland Revenue Department, investors must first appeal to the Objection Officer. The next level is the Board of Commissioners and beyond that the High Court.

Find out more...

Relevant documents Add Income Tax Act, 2009
Relevant institutions Inland Revenue Department

Corporate income tax

The basis for taxation depends on the business type:

  • For a business or domestic company, the taxable basis is worldwide income.
  • For an external company, the taxable basis is income earned in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. 

Taxes must be filed within three months of the close of the fiscal year. Investors benefiting from tax concessions, including tax holidays, should still file.

As of the second year of operation, taxes must be paid quarterly in advance, based on the tax paid in the previous fiscal year. Should the tax payable be less than that paid the year before, the balance is held as credit against future payments.

Losses can be carried forward for up to five years. The Income Tax Act clarifies capital allowances and rates of depreciation. 


Corporate income tax

Category Rate (%)
Standard rate 30

Value added tax

Value-added tax is levied and collected by any firm with a turnover exceeding EC$ 300,000. 

It must be filed and paid for by the 15th of the following month.

Where VAT is owed to a firm, for example because of export activities, this is held as credit for up to three months, beyond which it is refunded. For regular exporters there is a fast track scheme.

Penalties for late filing and payment are EC$ 500 or five percent of the amount, whichever is greater, plus an interest rate of 1.5 percent.

Typical VAT rates are below.


VAT

Category Rate (%)
Normal rate 16
Hotel industry 11
Basic food items and exports 0
Gas products and financial services Exempt

Find out more...

Withholding tax

This tax applies to technical services performed in the country by entities that are fiscally resident outside the country. It also applies to interest and royalties due to entities fiscally resident outside the country. The tax must be withheld from the final fee paid to the service provider and remitted to the Inland Revenue Department.


Withholding tax

Category Rate (%)
Entities resident in CARICOM 15
Entities resident outside CARICOM 20

Climate resilience levy

This tax is levied by hotels on visitors to the country and must be paid to the Inland Revenue Department by the 15th of the following month. The charge is EC$ 8 per night. The levy was introduced to mobilize resources domestically to implement climate change adaptation efforts and to strengthen resilience against the impact of climate change on the island.
Deductions.. Mention of eRegulations link if relevant

Climate resilience levy

Category Levy
Normal rate EC$ 8

Personal income tax

Employees earning less than EC$ 20,000 per year are exempt from paying personal income taxes. Remaining income is imposed at 30 percent.


Personal income tax

Income (EC$) Rate (%)
Up to 20,000 0
Above 20,000 30

Property tax

This is based on market value of the property and paid annually. The rates are below.

Property tax

Type of property Rate (%)
Commercial property 0.006
Private property 0.008

Stamp duty

Stamp duty is assessed on the value of the property at time of sale, as in the table below.

Actor Rate (%)
Buyer 5
Seller 5

Custom duty

Customs and Excise building

Customs duties are levied on most imported goods, with the exception of certain concessional regimes (see Getting Started tab), and goods from CARICOM countries, although a duty may still be charged on goods from more developed CARICOM countries. The collection of duties is regulated by the Principal Act, the Customs (Control and Management) Act and follows the CARICOM common external tariff for the region.

All imports are also subject to a customs service charge.

Some sample customs duties are below.

Sample custom duties

Category Duty (%)
Cars 35
Furniture 20
Airconditioning units 20
Cell phones 20
Clothing 20
Food and beverage 20
Customs service charge 5

Excise tax

Excise tax is charged on certain luxury products such as fizzy drinks, motor vehicles, liquor and cigarettes.

Sample tax rates and amounts are below.

Sample excise tax rates and amounts

Category Rate (%) Amount (EC$)
Fizzy drinks 10 -
Beer - 0.55/litre
Wine - 3.30/litre
Petrol - 2/liquid gallon
Vehicles for transporting people 35-45 -
Vehicles for transporting goods 55 -

Find out more...

Relevant documents Excise Tax Act
Relevant institutions Customs and Excise Department

Double taxation agreements

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has signed a double taxation agreement with CARICOM as well as with Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

What investors think

Investors appreciate the ability to file online. Disputes are reported to be rare. A concern was raised with regards to the non-refund when advance instalments exceed the final tax bill - overpayments are kept as a credit.

The application of the withholding tax was questioned, as professional services contracted by a local firm but operating abroad, would be subject to the tax.
On VAT, it was noted that refunds could take up to four months.

Concerns were raised with regards to customs processing times and delays until after standard working hours to inspect containers.

Legal framework

The country's legal system is similar in most respects to that of the United Kingdom and based on its common law system. The court of final appeal is Her Majesty’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The lower courts are the Magisterial District Courts that exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction up to a certain limit. There is also a separate Family Court.

The primary court of first instance is the High Court of Justice, from which appeal is made to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal.  Both derive their jurisdiction form the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Act. Puisne judges preside over civil and criminal matters at the High Court.  There presently three such judges. Appeals are heard by a panel of three judges and are presided over by the Chief of Justice or President of the Court of Appeal and the Justices of Appeal.

The basic law is English law although a separate body of law has been developed, particularly in the area of international finance. The lawyers in the Eastern Caribbean are competent to practice freely in any Eastern Caribbean State, and in certain other states, including Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana and Belize.

Investment protection and treatment

The Constitution restricts the expropriation of property to the public interest, in which case appropriate and prompt compensation must be paid. Provisions for this are outlined in the Land Acquisition Act. 
Foreign owned companies are accorded the same rights and protections as their locally-owned counterparts, even if there are differences in registration and other procedures (see external companies under the "Get Started" tab). Individual projects may require a specific Act be brought before the Parliament and passed and this act would detail specific agreements between the government and the investor. A list of examples of such acts is presented below.

Dispute settlement

The legal framework provides avenues for the settlement of disputes that may arise between businesses, between business and customer as well as between businesses and the state. The legal system is comprised of a number of lower courts and the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, that can hear and adjudicate of complaints filed by parties to a dispute. Disputes can be sent to arbitration by the court and decisions arrived at through arbitration are binding on parties. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its original jurisdiction hears matters relating to the Treaty of Chagaramus that established the Caribbean Community.

With regards to specific laws, the Arbitration (International Investment Disputes) Act that provides for the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of other States. The Trade Dispute (Arbitration and Inquiry) Act provides for the establishment of an arbitration tribunal and aboard of inquiry in connection with trade disputes and to make provision for the settlement of such disputes.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is also a member of the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the New York Convention), meaning that arbitral awards relating to foreign investments are legally binding and enforceable.

International investment agreements

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is signatory to international investment agreements with Germany and Taiwan Province of China. It is also signatory to the Caracas Agreement on Energy Co-operation between this Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Repatriation of funds

There are no restrictions on the repatriation of funds by businesses registered in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Businesses are allowed to repatriate capital, dividends, royalties and profits, free of all government taxes or any charges on foreign exchange.

Intellectual property

The Commerce and Intellectual Property Office of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is responsible for the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights of investors operating locally. The legal framework is comprised five separate acts.

International agreements

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a signatory to a number of international treaties and agreements that seeks to regulate Intellectual Property governance issues among State Parties. As a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Saint Vincent and the Grenadines adheres to a number of signed WIPO conventions.

Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (1967)

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Relevant documents WIPO Convention
Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886) establishes minimum standards regarding the national protection of copyrights in signatory countries, and guarantees the application in these countries of the national copyright law to artistic works originating from another signatory country.

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Relevant documents WIPO Berne Convention

The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) establishes industrial property protection rules regarding patents, marks, industrial designs, trade names, geographical indications and the repression of unfair competition. Its provisions include regulations regarding the national treatment, the right of priority and a number of common rules.

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Relevant documents WIPO Paris Convention

WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (1996) grants performers and producers of phonograms (sound recordings) a number of rights, including the rights of reproduction, of distribution, of rental and of making available. Performers are also granted specific intellectual property rights regarding their live (unrecorded) performances : right of broadcasting, right of communication to the public, and right of fixation. The protection of those rights is granted for at least 50 years.

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Relevant documents WIPO WPPT

Competition law

As a member state of CARICOM, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is bound by Chapter 8 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that provides the competition policy applicable to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) States. Member States are required to establish and maintain a national competition authority for facilitating the implementation of the rules of competition. At the CARICOM level, a Caribbean Competition Commission has been established to apply the rules of competition in respect of anti-competitive cross-border business conduct. 

The CARICOM competition policy addresses anti-competitive business conduct, such as agreements between enterprises, decisions by associations of enterprises and concerted practices by enterprises that have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the Community, and actions by which an enterprise abuses its dominant position within the Community.

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Relevant documents Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas

What investors think

The local system of commercial justice is seen to be slow, sometimes taking 10 to 15 years. There were no reports of significant disputes with the government.

Economy and production

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a small island economy, with a population of about 110,000 and a GDP per capita of about US$7,100. The economy is highly dependent on tourism-related activities, but the number of tourists is relatively modest compared to other economies in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). 

Preliminary estimates indicate that the economy grew by at least 2.3% in 2018, exceeding projections of a year ago. Growth was driven by improved performance in the tourism, fishing, construction, and manufacturing sectors. For 2019, the International Monetary Fund projects growth of 2.3%. This growth is expected to be driven by increased tourism arrivals and tourism-related activities like hotel construction and expansion

Regional and international markets

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the WTO as well as a number of regional groupings. It also has preferential access to the United States and Canada and reciprocal access to the European Union. Further details below.

The OECS, established by the Treaty of Basseterre, consists of seven full Member States: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and three associate members: Anguilla, Martinique and the British Virgin Islands. The purpose is to promote harmonization among Member States in areas concerning foreign policy, defence and security, and economic affairs. The six independent countries of the OECS ratified the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union on January 21, 2011. The Economic Union established a single financial and economic space within which all factors of production, including goods, services and people, move without hindrance.

Overseen by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), established by the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973, it allows all goods originating from within CARICOM countries (except the Bahamas) to be traded without restrictions. Most member states also apply a common external tariff (CET) on goods originating from non-CARICOM countries. Investors operating in one CARICOM country are given preferential access to the entire CARICOM market. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishes the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), permitting the free movement of goods, capital and labour within CARICOM States. More information at: http://csmeonline.org.

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Relevant documents CARICOM Treaty CARICOM Single Market

Signed in 2008 between CARIFORUM's 15 states and the European Union's 27 states, it allows products from CARIFORUM economies 100 percent immediate duty- and quota-free access to the EU. EU access to CARIFORUM markets will however be phased in over 25 years, with protection for 17 percent of CARIFORUM goods and services. The agreement also covers competition, innovation and intellectual property, public procurement, and environmental and labour standards. More information: http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/regions/caribbean.

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Relevant documents CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement

The Convention Establishing the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) was signed on 24 July 1994 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, with the aim of promoting consultation, cooperation and concerted action among all the countries of the Caribbean, comprising 25 Member States and three Associate Members. Eight other non-independent Caribbean countries are eligible for associate membership

The objectives of the ACS are enshrined in the Convention and are based on the following: the strengthening of the regional co-operation and integration process, with a view to creating an enhanced economic space in the region; preserving the environmental integrity of the Caribbean Sea which is regarded as the common patrimony of the peoples of the region; and promoting the sustainable development of the Greater Caribbean.

The CBI provides for the United States to reduce tariffs on imports from CBI beneficiary countries if a) they are imported directly from a CBI beneficiary country into the U.S. customs territory; b) they are wholly the growth, product or manufacture of a CBI beneficiary country or are substantially transformed into a new or different article in the CBI beneficiary country; and c) contain a minimum of 35 percent local content of one or more CBI beneficiary countries (15 percent of the minimum content may be from the United States). More information: https://ustr.gov/issue-areas/trade-development/preference-programs/caribbean-basin-initiative-cbi.

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Relevant documents Trade and Investment Framework Agreement

The Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement provides goods originating from the Commonwealth-Caribbean with duty-free access to the Canadian market. Certain goods, such as textiles and apparel, footwear, luggage and handbags are excluded. There are plans to replace this agreement with a reciprocal free trade agreement. More information at: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-98-36/page-1.html

Tourism development

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has benefitted from a tourism industry dating back to the 1960s. Nevertheless the sector has remained small. Even today, there are only 2,200 hotel beds.

However, a new international airport on Saint Vincent, with a growing number of direct flights to Canada and the United States is set to increase visitor numbers for a country with important tourism potential from the following:

  • Landscape, climate and heritage: Forests and hilltop locations with nature trails and waterfalls. A tropical climate. Colonial heritage sites, including in pittoresque Kingstown. Old churches. A rum distillery. Botanical gardens. Laid back Grenadine islands with pristine beaches.
  • A vibrant culture: The annual carnival in June and July. The Garafuna homecoming. The Christmas night market.
  • Skills: An English-speaking workforce and a newly opened local hospitality training school.
  • Incentives: A fiscal incentives package for the sector.
  • Tourist profile: Outside cruise ship visitors, the average stay is ten days, with most visitors from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Regional visitors come from Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Potential for growth: The international airport currently has plenty of scope for growth in the number of flights. Current flights have high load factors. 
At the same time, the government is keen to focus on four niche markets: 
  • yachting and charter.
  • diving and snorkeling.
  • eco-adventures.
  • weddings and honeymoons.

With growth in flights, there is a need to build new hotels. A new 250-bed beach hotel is being developed in Mount Wynne, outside Kingstown, and a 92-bed Holiday Inn Express with conference facilities is being built in Diamond, close to the airport. But a number of government-owned as well as privately-owned properties are available for hotel development:

  • Mount Wynne offers two further beach front parcels measuring 20.4 and 29.5 acres respectively and ear-marked for the development of resorts. The hotel currently under development should be completed by 2021.
  • Chatham Bay, Union island, is a 99 acre greenfield property owned by the government and is available for hotel/resort development.
  • Park Estate Bequia, offers a 600 acre green field property available for hotel development on the largest Grenadine island.

With the construction of hotels to accommodate the anticipated increase in visitor arrivals, as well as growth in cruise ship day-trip arrivals there will be a need to invest in recreational activities for visitors. Investments in activities such as zip-lining, canopy tourscable carshigh-end restaurants and bars are encouraged as currently there are no such activities present on mainland Saint Vincent. 

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Relevant institutions Invest SVG

Light manufacturing

The currently benefits from a light manufacturing sector supporting electronic assembly and the production of custom-made and high-end furnishings. There are two industrial estates. The government currently offers a number of incentives including tax breaks for capital intensive enterprises. Incentives include:

  • Availability of customized and standard factory shells of 6,000, 10,000 and 20,000 feet. The shells are already fitted with electrical and plumbing connections.
  • Exemption of income tax on dividends paid to shareholders.
  • Net losses offset in computing the profits taxable for the 5 years following the tax holiday period.

Export Development Incentives include:

  • Repatriation of profits.
  • Exemption from capital gains tax.
  • Working capital advances for the purchase of inputs and raw materials under the Export Credit Guarantee Scheme (ECGS).

Renewable energy

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is currently seeking to achieve two objectives in its energy strategy: move to green sources of energy and achieve energy security. Currently 79 percent of energy is generated from imported diesel.

The flagship of this strategy is the installation of a geothermal plant that in time is expected to generate 60 percent of the country's needs.  A solar farm in Lowman's Bay and Union Island will also contribute. However, with the tourism, and in particular the hospitality sector, expected to grow, the government is keen for greater investment in this area as peak-time demand increases beyond 23 MW.

The current legal framework allows for hotels and other businesses to install their own solar generation capacity and to be licensed as an independent power producer, for which there is a EC$0.35 feed-in tarrif. Other opportunities include installation of solar water heaters. The framework is being revised in order to further incentivize green investments.

Agro-processing

The government has been seeking to diversify the agricultural sector from banana exports with an emphasis on agro-processing to make better use and value-added of local food crops. Output can provide import-substitution for the local market and the growing tourism sector (see further below), and provide exports to the region.

Based on existing trends in agro-processing, potential exists in:

  • The manufacture of fruit juices, fruit-based beverages, jams, jellies, and marmalades using locally available fruits.
  • The production of desiccated coconut, coconut cream and coconut milk.

Eastern Caribbean Group of Companies

ECGC traces its history in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines back 40 years. Its activities cover packaging, bottling of water and sodas, and using mills to transform wheat into flour and grains into animal feed and rice.


The shareholding structure combines a local investor with the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Maple Leaf Foods of Canada. The flour mill was established in order to substitute the import of rice to the country and to provide flour to the OECS region. Every day its mills produce 2,200 100 pound bags of flour. It counts 134 employees from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the region, on its payroll.


The company benefits from a 100 year lease on government land and received fiscal incentives at the start. It was also able to build its own harbour in order to receive raw materials and export finished products. It is hoped that a new geothermal plant will bring down electricity costs, which have an important bearing on total operational costs.

Fisheries

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines benefits from diverse and rich marine resources. With the forthcoming completion of a US$10 million facility to process and export fish and lobster and an intention to purchase US$20 million worth of fish and lobster locally, investment is required in fishing vessels and other equipment to sustainably harvest resources to meet demand.

Potential also exists in aquaculture to address seasonal restrictions on lobster harvesting.

ICT-enabled businesses

The country is well poised to take advantage of developments and investments in the ICT sector and has the following strengths:

  • Installation of additional undersea and terrestrial fibre capacity.
  • Proximity in terms of time zones to North America and Europe.
  • English as mother tongue across the population.
  • An fiscal incentive package for the sector (see Getting started tab).
  • Local educational resources it ICTs through the National Centre for Technological Innovation (NCTI) with areas of training including MCSE, MCSA, CompTIA A+ Certification, and training in medical transcription.
  • A planned technology park.

Opportunities in the sector include:

  • The development of an IT college, for which the government is willing to partner with the private sector.
  • Medical transcriptions, image processing and other IT-enabled services.
  • Geographic information system and image processing.
  • Software development.

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Relevant documents ICT Services Investments Act, 2007

Medicinal cannabis industry

In 2018, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines authorized the licensing of businesses in the medicinal cannabis sector, the second country in the Caribbean to do so after Jamaica. 

The government, through the Medicinal Cannabis Authority, is currently issuing licences to traditional farmers and other local, regional, and extra-regional stakeholders for the cultivation, manufacture, dispensary, transportation, import, research and export of medicinal cannabis products. 

Applicants are subject to a due diligences process and must demonstrate that their facilities meet the necessary legal and technical requirements.

What investors think

Investors felt there was strong investment potential. However, points raised included the need to lower energy costs to promote light manufacturing (which the government is currently addressing through the installation of geothermal generation), the need to invest more in the training of hospitality staff to support tourism industry growth and the need to upholster the centre of Kingstown. Strong potential was seen in nature and agri-tourism, and yachting.


Why invest in the country?

There are many reasons for choosing to invest in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Investors can rest assured that  the country has a very stable political system and a growing economy that offers a highly skilled and educated workforce. Some of the more popular benefits to investors include:

  • tax holidays that serve to cushion investments
  • complete or partial exemption from income tax on profits
  • income tax rebates ranging from 25% to 50% are available if exports account for 10% and more of sale
  • import tax concessions (on raw materials, machinery and equipment) between 50%-100%
  • cooperate tax of 30%
  • the ability to freely repatriate funds
  • no limitations on foreign exchange
  • lenient work permit requirements for qualified foreign nationals 
  • well regulated, compliant, low cost international financial jurisdiction with world class products and efficient professional service providers
  • modern technical infrastructure

Country data

Date
Official name Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Country area 150 square miles
Capital city Kingstown
Population 107,000
Administrative regions
Local currency Eastern Caribbean (XCD)
Exchange rate
Official language(s) English
Other national language(s)
GDP per capita

Map of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

last update on: 14/2/2020