Location

Vanuatu comprises a group of 83 islands, situated some 2,250 kilometres north-east of Sydney, Australia, and 800 kilometres west of Fiji.

The total land area is approximately 14,700 square kilometres and the territorial waters, cover approximately 450,000 square Kilometres.

The climate of the group varies from tropical in the northern extremities to subtropical in the south. The average midday temperature in Port Vila (the capital) is 29°C in summer and 25°C in winter, and rainfall is about 235 centimetres (90 inches) annually.

Both the climate and arable soils are very conducive to the development of land and livestock husbandry.
The population is approximately 280,000, of which some of Vanuatu 95% are indigenous “Ni-Vanuatu” of Melanesian origin with the remainder consisting of Europeans, other Pacific Islanders and Asians.

English and French are the official languages of the country, whilst Bislama (local dialect ) is the national language.

Depending on daylight saving, Vanuatu is 11 to 12 hours ahead of GMT (i.e., 1 hour ahead or the same time as Sydney and, 3 hours ahead of Hong Kong).

Business hours in Port Vila are 7.30am to 11.30am and 1.30pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Government and Laws

Vanuatu is a parliamentary democracy. Independence was attained on 30 July 1980, after 74 years of joint rule by Britain and France.

Prior to Independence the country was known as the New Hebrides. The legislature consists of a single chamber, 52 member parliament for which general elections are held every four years.

The Head of State is the President of the Republic, who is elected for a period of five years by an electoral college consisting of Members of Parliament and the Presidents of the Regional Council.

The legal system is based on English law and adjudicated upon by the Supreme Court of Vanuatu.

Economy

In recent times the Vanuatu economy has benefited from investment in the tourism, light industrial and agricultural sectors.

The activities of the Financial Centre since its creation in 1969 have also contributed significantly to the economy.

The country’s principal exports are copra, beef and timber products. Vanuatu currently has no personal or corporate income taxes, nor are there any withholding taxes, capital gains taxes, gift, estate or death duties for residents or non-residents.

Currency

The local currency, the Vatu (Vt) floats against a basket of currencies and is consequently stable.

There are no exchange controls and bank accounts can be held in any of the major international currencies which are freely traded in Vanuatu.

There is no local restriction for either residents or non-residents on the movement of funds in any currency into, or out of Vanuatu.

Banking And Interest Rates

Vanuatu has several commercial banks such as ANZ, BSP (Bank of South Pacific), BRED and NBV (National Bank of Vanuatu).

Interest rates obtainable from deposits in foreign currencies through the banks operating in Port Vila are broadly competitive with those obtainable on the world market.

January 2018 Loans are available from the commercial banks after the usual level of scrutiny and the provision of adequate security. Interest rates on foreign currency borrowings are again broadly in line with rates obtainable internationally.

Shipping

If sailing on Vanuatu waters only, vessels must be registered under the Shipping Act [CAP 53].

The local shipping register is maintained by the Director of the Department of Ports & Marine in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

Registration or licensing of vessels (other than a foreign registered vessel) operating within Vanuatu’s economic zone (vessels over 8 metres in length engaged in commercial fishing or commercial trade and vessels that carry passengers for hire) must be registered pursuant to section 2 of the regulation.

A permanent Certificate of Registry is issued upon registration.

If sailing on international waters (whether for foreign trade charters or pleasure) vessels must be registered under The Maritime Act [CAP.131].

Vessels are registered with the international shipping registry which is administered by Vanuatu Maritime Services Limited (“VMSL”) a privately held Vanuatu company operating under contract to the Vanuatu Government as the Maritime Administrator. VMSL operates the Central Registry and day to day activities from its offices in New York.

Telecommunications

Vanuatu has two major telecommunications providers Digicel and Telecom Vanuatu Limited ( in 2020 acquired by VODAFONE ) plus several various other internet and satellite service providers.

Miscellaneous information about Vanuatu

The following is a brief outline of some of the different areas where Vanuatu generates income (or not) through ‘indirect taxes’. 

 

  • Airport Tax – All international departing passengers and domestic travellers pay departure tax, which is included in air ticket fares.

 

  • Banking License – further details are available on request. Interactive Gaming Act – 2.5% to the Government Revenue Fund. 

 

  • Business License Fees – There are different categories for licenses and fees vary depending on the type of license and are based on turnover, subject to a minimum fee. Note: Foreign investors must first obtain Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority (VIPA) approval 

 

  • Capital Gains tax – none The Casino Control Act levies a 15% gaming tax on net turnover plus VAT is charged at the rate of 12.5% on gross casino profit.  Estate or Death duties – none Income Tax (corporate or personal) – none Import Duty – The rates vary depending of the type of goods being imported and can range from 5% to 60%, but are generally 20% or 25%. 

 

  • Insurance Licenses – further details are available on request.

 

  • Motor Vehicles – Road vehicle licenses are approximately Vt5,000 depending on the engine capacity and/or payload. The Government has prohibited the import of right hand drive vehicles into the country. 

 

  • Property Tax – All land in Vanuatu is leasehold. Registration fees of 5% are payable for the first registration of a land lease and on each transfer thereafter. Note: 2% stamp duty is also applicable and a Custom owner consent fee may be applicable.

 

  •  Rent Tax – Rent tax is payable on any income derived from rents received from tenants in residential properties. This amount is calculated at 12.5% of all rents received.

 

  • Value Added Tax Act (VAT) – VAT is charged at 15% on the value of almost all goods and services supplied by a VAT registered person. All businesses with a turnover of more than Vt4,000,000 per annum are required to register and file monthly or quarterly returns, as prescribed. 

 

  • Withholding tax – none.

Finance Centre

Vanuatu is the longest established offshore finance centre in the Pacific (over 30 years) and is in a favourable time zone for those conducting business in the Asia Pacific region.

The statutory framework for the operation of the offshore Financial Centre comprises the Companies Act (which is based on English law) the International Companies Act, and Acts and regulations relating to Banking, Insurance, Stamp Duties and Trust Companies.

This framework is administered by the office of the Financial Services Commissioner and Reserve Bank of Vanuatu in the case of banking and insurance, and is adjudicated upon by the Supreme Court of Vanuatu.

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