By Ido Vock
Located between the Caribbean Sea and the north Atlantic Ocean east of Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands is a UK overseas territory that is known for its status as an offshore financial services centre.
The territory is nominally home to more than 400,000 companies, collectively worth $1.5tn. It relies on expats to help staff the banks, trust and insurance companies, funds and accompanying law firms which keep the economy moving. Most of these businesses are based in the capital, Road Town, on Tortola, the territory’s largest island, with a population of 24,045.
Recent years have proved challenging, however: though last year’s Hurricane Dorian left the islands relatively unscathed, in 2017 they were hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria, which damaged 80 per cent of the territory’s housing stock.
Meanwhile, British and European efforts to increase the transparency of offshore territories have prompted the UK to step up financial regulation. However the UK government has extended the deadline for overseas territories to introduce public registers of company ownership from 2020 to 2023.
Residents of the British Virgin Islands pay no tax on income, capital gains or inheritance, though stamp duty on property purchases by foreigners is 12 per cent.
Knight Frank is marketing a seven-bedroom estate on Tortola with sea views for $5.5m.
The Caribbean climate allows year-round sea swimming, and the territory’s 60 islands collectively offer every watersport going. Highlights include snorkelling off Virgin Gorda’s Baths beach and sailing around the reefs of Anegada, while the annual BVI Spring Regatta, held each March, is one of the largest such events in the Caribbean.
Soggy dollars and cocktails
Jost Van Dyke (permanent population 300) is known as the territory’s party island. Among its draws is the Soggy Dollar Bar, so named because traditionally it is reached by mooring offshore, swimming inland and paying with dripping cash.
The island is a favoured spot to enjoy the British Virgin Islands’ signature Painkiller cocktail, a mix of dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice, topped with grated Grenadian nutmeg.
Residents who tire of exploring the local archipelagos and coves, whether by ferry or sail, have their pick of the Caribbean for weekend getaways. There are direct flights to destinations such as Saint Kitts (45 minutes), Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan (45 minutes) and Antigua (90 minutes).
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