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British Virgin Islands


The British Virgin Islands (BVI), are a group islands located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, some 40-50 miles due east of Puerto Rico. The largest and most populated island is Tortola, which covers 55.7km2 and is home to 18,000 people. The entire combined population of the British Virgin Islands totals 22,000 people, and its territory spans 151km2. There are 16 inhabited islands and over 20 uninhabited islands.

There are 5 administrative districts in the BVI: Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and the Other islands (which are mainly the small islands south of Tortola that are referred to as the little sisters). The local currency on the island is the Unites States Dollar (USD).


The BVI’s favourable tax regime, and beautiful tropical scenery, help to give it one of the most prosperous economies in the Caribbean, and a high GDP per capita of $38,500. The economy of the BVI is centred around two major areas: tourism and financial related services. The tourism industry employs the largest amount of people on the island and accounts for 45% of the BVI’s GDP figure of $853.4 million. More than 900,000 people visit the islands every year, over 50% of which arrive via large Caribbean cruise ships that dock in Road Town Port.

Financial related services contribute the largest percentage to the GDP, and 51.8% of the governments revenue comes from offshore companies and licence fees in this sector. Additional revenue is raised by payroll taxes within the trust industry sector. There are over 440,000 active offshore companies registered to the BVI, and a report by the KPMG revealed that 41% of the world’s offshore companies are formed within the country.

The agricultural sector is small, partly due to the poor soil and small amount of arable land on the islands, and the BVI relies heavily on food imports to meet its food requirements. Other imported products include building materials, automobiles and machinery, with the BVI importing $187 million worth of goods in 2009.


There are 4 airports on the BVI, 2 of which have paved runways. The main airport used for international flights is the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (EIS), which is located on Beef Island and is connected to Tortola via the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. Ferries also operate services for arriving passengers, to other main islands in BVI, and also to the United States Virgin Islands. There are 200km of paved roadways, most of which are on the largest island of Tortola, unpaved roads also exist, and some taxi’s are modified to transport passengers on the uneven terrain.

The main port is Road Town, which is located in the horseshoe shaped Road Harbour on the southern coast of the island. It is the primary port for yacht chartering, passenger cruise ships and local ferries. The Virgin Gorda Port in St. Thomas Bay deals with container ships and barges which import and export goods to and from the island.

Tortola has a strong and developed telecommunications infrastructure, with a fixed domestic telephone system, and a submarine cable that provides connectivity to 13 other Eastern Caribbean Islands. The British Virgin Islands Electricity Corporation (BVIEC), is the sole provider of electricity to the BVI and has 11 generators and several small power stations.


The BVI have a total labour-force of 12,770, 59.4% of which work in the service sector, 40% in industry and 0.6% in agriculture. The last census reported that 83.4% of the population are Afro-Caribbean, 7% are White and 9.6% are Indian, Amerindian and mixed race. BVI is heavily dependant on migrant workers, and over 50% of all workers on the islands are of a foreign descent. The primary language spoken by residents is Virgin Islands Creole, which is an English based language with a heavy creole accent; almost all foreign workers speak the standard English language.

Most educational facilities are located on the main island of Tortola, which is home to several government-run facilities and private schools. The H.Lavity Stoutt Community College is the only institute in the BVI that offers higher education certificates and associate degrees. Some students choose to further their education either via long-distance learning programmes, or by enrolling in a university in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom. The BVI has a high school life expectancy rate of 17 years, with citizens attending schooling from an early age; this helps to create a qualified workforce and gives the islands a high literacy rate of 98%.

Business Costs

The British Virgin Islands have a simple and favourable tax regime, with an absence of many notable forms of taxation, including no capital gains tax, no sales tax, no VAT, no inheritance tax and no profit tax. There is a payroll tax that is applicable to residents, but the amount of tax payable has been reduced to 0%. Some companies are required to pay a minimal tax, dependant on their size; corporate rates currently stand at 10% for small employers and 14% for larger employers. The islands have introduced several miscellaneous minor taxes, including car tax for rentals, hotel tax, petroleum income tax and passenger tax.

Minimal labour regulations operate on the BVI, and there are currently no trade unions. All foreign residents must apply for a work permit to live and work on the islands, which is only granted if there is no local resident that is suitable for the job in question. A low minimum wage of $4 an hour is in operation, and mandatory for all legal and contracted workers.
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