Belize has one of the world’s best retiree programs. Through the Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) Program, the government gives qualified retirees an exemption from taxes on all income derived from sources outside Belize, whether such income is earned or passive, and whether or not it is remitted to Belize.
The QRP Program for Those Who Want to Retire in Belize
You don’t have to be retired—or even of retirement age—to take advantage of this program. However, you must be at least 45 years old, and be able to show that you have adequate resources to deposit a monthly income of $2,000 or more per month, and comply with several other minor requirements. To keep your QRP status you must spend just one month of the year in Belize.
The regulations state that you must show a pension or other regular income. In reality, if you can demonstrate that you have adequate savings to transfers $24,000 per year, the Belize Tourist Board has accepted that approach, since many expats do not have pensions but do have IRAs/401Ks. You can also make a single $24,000 deposit a year or make it in monthly installments.
In addition to tax benefits, qualified retirees can import their personal and household goods as well as a car, boat, and plane, without having to pay import duties or taxes on those goods that they import in to Belize during their first year as a QRP resident.
QRPs are considered non-residents for purposes of banking, meaning they can set up a U.S. dollar bank account with a local or offshore bank in Belize. QRPs are also allowed to engage in gainful employment as long as most of their business activity takes place outside Belize and is conducted exclusively with non-residents of Belize. This is especially important for expats who wish to maintain a consulting business from their second home in Belize.
The Benefits of Belize’s QRP Retirement Program
By Ann Kuffner
When retiring in Belize the first important decision an expat must address is whether to become a resident or a Qualified Retirement Person (QRP). There are major differences between these two residence options. The QRP program is certainly the more flexible program for expat retirees. An immediate benefit is that once you submit the QRP paperwork the process can be completed quickly. Recent expats have reported obtaining their QRP status within a few months of submittal.
In contrast, expats aspiring to become long-term residents of Belize must spend a period of 50 out of 52 weeks in Belize during a full year. They can then complete and submit their residence application. After that it still typically takes at least a year to obtain Belizean residence.
A big plus of the QRP option is that anyone over 45 is eligible to apply. No need to wait until you’re 65, as is required in the U.S. And you can include your spouse and kids in the QRP program as well, for an additional fee.
Once you obtain your QRP card you can come and go at will across Belize’s borders. You’ll probably want to do so often, as QRPs need only spend one month per year in Belize to maintain your QRP residence status.
You’ll also save big, up front, as a QRP when you move to Belize. During your first year as a QRP you can import all of your personal effects into Belize without being charged import duties or taxes. You can also import a personal car, boat, and plane duty-free and tax-free during your first year in Belize.
QRPs are not taxed on their international income or on capital gains. Unlike Belize residents, they are allowed to maintain an international bank account in Belize, and an offshore international business corporation.
The QRP program isn’t for all retirees, though. It is a “retirement” program. That means that as a QRP you won’t be able to work for a company with offices in Belize. But you can still work online, doing work for offshore clients located in countries other than Belize.
The Belize Tourism Board manages the QRP Program. They are currently re-evaluating the program, considering how to improve it and provide more benefits to QRPs. There has been discussion about eventually offering a path that would allow QRPs to directly transition to becoming a resident or citizen.
Note that QRPs are required to deposit $24,000 a year into a Belize bank account, to either live on, or invest in Belize. Each year QRPs must provide proof that they met this financial obligation and transferred the required U.S. dollars into Belize during the year.
Common FAQ’s About Retiring in Belize
Belize is not the cheapest place to live in Central America but with the right planning expats can live a better life for less than the U.S. Currently you can live very well in Belize for between $2,875 to $3,075 a month.
Generally Belize is a very safe place for expats to live. As with all countries there are areas you should avoid but the traditional expat loacations of Placencia and Ambergris Caye have very low crime rates compared to Belize City.
Any U.S. or Canadian citizen can stay in Belize for up to one month without a visa. After that there are various visas that they can apply for including. Many expats apply for the Belize Retired Person’s Incentive Program (QRP).