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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Belize : Retirees paradise - Times Neswpaper - January 2007

Belize, with its tropical climate, may seem something of a left-field choice, but it has always been a popular destination for American retirees.

It has average temperatures ranging from 24C to 27C.

English is the official language and the cost of living is low. However, the pronounced rainy season is likely to put off some people.

Ben Mason, partner of Some-place Else, a property company in the country, said: “Currently, the majority of retirees to Belize are from the US, but with its slower pace of life, lower cost of living, and retired person’s incentive programme, it is a Commonwealth country that is rapidly attracting interest from British expats looking to make it their home.

“We have sold properties to clients who have brought property in Belize with the aim of retiring there when the time comes – it’s a big change of lifestyle which is proving very popular.”

Tax

The income tax for normal citizens is set at 1.75%, but income such as pensions is totally untaxed. There is also no capital gains tax or inheritance tax for people retiring to Belize.

For those dreaming of an early part-retirement, the rules are also advantageous.

Investors in the island can direct foreign business activities from the country, as long as they have an income of $2,000 a month and are at least 45 years old.

They can also import a car, light aircraft, boat and any personal belongings duty free. The maximum tax per item is $15,000.

Property costs

Property prices in Belize are low relative to other Caribbean islands.

A three-bedroom beachfront property costs from around $375,000, while luxury villas with private beaches go from about $500,000.

Buying and selling costs include stamp duty of 5%, legal fees of about 2% and a 1.5% transfer tax when you sell a property.

Ease of gaining residency

Anyone aged 45 or over can apply for residency through a retirement programme set up by the Belize government.

Pensioners who qualify are then known as “qualified retired persons” and are eligible for benefits including tax exemptions and incentives.

Healthcare

There is a national, tax-funded healthcare service in Belize. Remember, though, that it is a third-world country, albeit a progressive one.

Fortunately, private healthcare is also relatively inexpensive. The cost of a visit to a private doctor or health practitioner is about $15.

More Places to Retire : Times Newspaper

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