MAURITIUS: A RISING JURISDICTION OF SUBSTANCE AND INNOVATION

Mauritius, internationally recognised as a preferred tourist destination for its luxury tropical beach resorts, has also successfully positioned itself both as an advantageous solution for global family offices and as a regional investment hub. From humble sugar-based agricultural beginnings, Mauritius today is a well-established destination for high net worth families and investors seeking a secure investment climate, conducive business environment, prevailing political stability, legislative and regulatory transparency and a robust financial industry – all encapsulated in a paradise island.

Since its independence in 1968, Mauritius has undergone various progressive stages of economic transformation, leveraging on its geographic location, and now has a diversified, upper middle-income economy. Mauritius has one of the highest per capita incomes within the fast-growing African continent. Contributing to this success, the government of Mauritius has consistently re-affirmed its commitment to ongoing transparency and recognises the importance of being a jurisdiction of substance. Furthermore, as part of the government’s stated theme of being “Forward Looking”, Mauritius is embracing digital innovation.

A key vision of the Mauritian government is to position Mauritius as an International Finance Centre of excellence with a reputation for ease of doing business. In this spirit, Mauritius has been actively attracting foreign investors to leverage its thriving business environment whilst benefitting from its unique lifestyle value proposition. As a jurisdiction of choice, Mauritius is meeting expectations by ensuring a strong legal and regulatory framework, good corporate governance, an array of modern financial products and services and global connectivity, not to mention competitive operational costs. Mauritius is also an Ocean State with a bilingual (English / French) workforce servicing one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones in the world.

The Mauritius advantage is borne out by various international benchmarks:

Ease of doing business – The World Bank Doing Business Report 2019 ranks Mauritius 1st in Africa (and is now ranked amongst the top 20 economies in the world in this category);

Political stability – The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2018 ranks Mauritius 1st in Africa;

Good governance – 1st in Africa by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s 2018 Ibrahim Index of African Governance;

Economic democracy – 1st in Africa for the Index of Economic Freedom – Heritage Foundation, and 1st in Africa in the Economic Freedom of the World – Fraser Institute

Mauritius and the EU

Mauritius and the EU have enjoyed a successful partnership of some 40 years. Undoubtedly, Mauritius’ economy has benefitted greatly from this close association, with the EU being the major exporting market for Mauritius. Advancing on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and Cotonou Agreement, Mauritius will be serving as a pilot country for how the EU collaborates and partners with more advanced economies.

Mauritius’ various Occupation Permit and Residence Permit options have resulted in a significant number of EU citizens relocating to Mauritius, permanently or for select seasons during the year, and contributing towards a culturally diverse population.

A rising jurisdiction of substance for global business

Against the background of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD’s) Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS Action Plan), which aims to realign taxation with economic substance and value creation, while preventing double taxation, Mauritius has continued to focus on enhancing its substance requirements for global business companies.

Mauritius joined the BEPS Inclusive Framework, which commits signatories to implementing the minimum standards put forward by the OECD on harmful tax practices, tax treaty abuse, country-by-country reporting, and dispute resolution mechanisms. Mauritius has also signed the OECD’s Multilateral Convention to transpose BEPS recommendations into tax treaties worldwide. In August 2017, Mauritius was rewarded with a favourable “Compliant” status (the highest status possible) under the enhanced peer review process undertaken by the OECD’s Global Forum.

In a separate but allied development, in 2016, the EU Council appointed a Code of Conduct Group (COCG) committed to the implementation of coordinated policy efforts in order to combat tax fraud, evasion and avoidance. The COCG has subsequently been conducting a global screening process, based on the criteria agreed by the member states, in order to assess “non-cooperation” by other states. Whilst Mauritius’ global business regime has undergone significant reform in recent years, the COCG has highlighted the partial exemption system, introduced by the Finance Act 2018 and available to GBCs, as requiring attention. Whilst the COCG observed that there were no harmful features with respect to targeting non-residents, ring-fencing, internationally accepted principles or transparency, they did identify that this partial exemption regime would require substance attention particularly with respect to appropriate anti-abuse measures. In the context of the EU’s request for this to receive attention prior to 31 December 2019, Mauritius’ Prime Minister has provided a high-level commitment to address these concerns by that date. This response reiterates Mauritius’ pledge to adhere to international standards and best practices in matters relating to tax transparency and fair taxation, and ongoing good standing with the EU.

A FinTech hub

Moving towards an age of digitisation, Mauritius has recognised that the digital revolution presents an opportunity for certain economies to leapfrog traditional industrial development. Mauritius is now in the process of positioning itself as the FinTech hub for Africa.

Introducing schemes to provide a regulated environment for the safe custody of digital assets by investors, further enable the exchange of digital assets and sandbox licenses for entrepreneurs (recognising that disruptive technology, by its nature, requires “outside the box” thinking). This will reduce the uncertainty around legal and regulatory recognition and, ultimately, be beneficial for international blockchain companies looking for a robust (yet dynamic) jurisdiction from which to operate.

A family office centre

Mauritius is already well known as a destination for trusts and estate planning, and more recently, foundations. To advance this offering, Mauritius has introduced the Overseas Family Office (Single) and Overseas Family Office (Multiple) schemes. The Overseas Family Office Scheme caters for the domiciliation of assets and wealth in Mauritius. In complying with certain substance requirements, a tax holiday will be available and family members will benefit from residency schemes. This is an ideal solution for wealthy families to consider, particularly those who are invested in Africa, but want to ensure additional asset protection, and the consequential succession of wealth, whilst capitalising on the Mauritian lifestyle.

In conclusion, Mauritius continues its upward trajectory as an International Finance Centre of innovation and substance for corporates, family offices, entrepreneurs and investors alike.

 

Contact

Graham Patrick – Senior Client Service Manager: graham.patrick@maitlandgroup.com

www.maitlandgroup.com

About the author: Graham Patrick

Graham Patrick