Get in the zone: Tax benefits of free zones among Trinidad's best solutions

Posted by Investt

If I were to sum up my job in a single phrase it would be this: I solve problems.

Our national investment approach is built on this maxim. When CEO Scott Jones first told me about Oldendorff Carriers’ idea to launch a transshipment hub in Trinidad and Tobago I was excited.Trinidad and Tobago Free Zone Company

A few months in, making that business a reality came down to costs and talent. InvesTT worked “hand in glove”—as we say in Trinidad— with the Trinidad and Tobago Free Zone company on a package of attractive fiscal incentives for Oldendorff. Finding qualified people was easy.

Scotiabank is another success story. The bank picked Trinidad above other Caribbean countries for a shared-services hub to serve the Eastern Caribbean. The facility qualified for free zone status and the bank is running a profitable operation.

Foreign investors who build on or get certified as a free zone pay no corporate, value-added or land and building taxes and are exempt from duties. In other words, businesses that qualify for free zone status benefit from a host of fiscal incentives.

What is a free zone?

In Trinidad and Tobago, a free zone can refer to both a cluster space set aside for more than one operator, or to the physical space occupied by a company that has qualified for free zone status. There is no time limit on free zone certification.

Free zones must be recommended by the Trinidad and Tobago Free Zone Company Limited (TTFZ) and designated by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, under which the TTFZ falls. There are 16 free zones now operating in the country.

If I apply for free zone status, what’s in it for me?

Free zone operators are exempt from:

  • Import or export licenses

  • Land, building, improvements or machinery tax

  • Income tax, corporation tax or business levy

  • Value-added tax

  • Withholding tax. This means that a much larger chunk of profits is remitted to the company without any restrictions.

Who is in charge of free zones in Trinidad and Tobago?

The Trinidad and Tobago Free Zones Company Limited (TTFZ) was established by and administers the Free Zones Act. 

When it selects free zone operators, the TTFZ looks for foreign investors who create jobs; who transfer complex knowledge and new skills to the T&T labour force; who prompt the economic use and development of Trinidad-based raw materials; and who access new economic markets to generate more net foreign exchange earnings for the country.

Where can a free zone exist?

Anywhere in Trinidad and Tobago, except when the president has designated that an area should not be a free zone. Any owner or owners of the property must agree to this designation; so must any individuals with an interest in the business registered on the property. 

Oldendorff Carriers Trinidad Free Zone

Trade Minister Vasant Bharath (center) congratulates Oldendorff Trinidad CEO Scott Jones on qualifying for free zone status.

What types of free zones exist in Trinidad?

  • Multi-user — accommodates the activities of more than one approved free zone operator. Recommended by the T&T Free Zones Company and approved by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment.

  • Single user — when a multi-user free zone space is unavailable or when enterprises (large-scale manufacturing, services) cannot be accommodated in an existing free zone or require a particular location for operation, the Free Zone Company can recommend that the minister designate a single-enterprise free zone to accommodate a single enterprise.

How do I qualify to operate a free zone?

If you’re a manufacturer and import/export giant with markets beyond Trinidad, or if you want to provide business process outsourcing or financial services to international markets, you’re halfway there.

Trinidad is looking for free zone operators who bring new investment to the country, who can develop our unique blend of raw materials, and who create hundreds of high-level jobs so our workforce can gain new skills and understand best-practice technologies in their field.

Free zone companies must also be incorporated or registered in Trinidad and Tobago.

Oil and gas companies are not eligible for free zone certification.

What activities can be performed in a free zone?

  1. Warehousing and storing
  2. Manufacturing operations
  3. Transshipment operations
  4. Loading and unloading operations
  5. Exporting
  6. Importing
  7. Service operations, including banking, insurance and professional services
  8. Packaging and shipping
  9. Assembling
  10. Processing, refining, purifying and mixing
  11. Merchandising, including international trading in products
  12. Constructing, altering, reconstructing, extending or repairing infrastructure or premises situated within a free zone and including the equipping of such premises
  13. Sale, lease, rental or management of free zone land, infrastructure, premises, plant, equipment facilities and services

Where are Trinidad’s existing free zones?

The TTFZ website provides a map of Trinidad’s 16 existing free zones, with a list of free zone operators below. Click on the map to see where each company is located.

Where can I find a copy of the Free Zones Act?

All of Trinidad and Tobago’s laws are online; the Free Zones Act is one of our trade and commerce laws.

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