Top 10 Countries to Open a Business In

Should I stay or should I go? If you are an entrepreneur, the answer to the question is not as easy as it seems. Sure, operating a business in the country where you currently live offers several advantages. You get to run a business while remaining close to your friends and family members. Another advantage is you understand your country’s laws and regulations, as well as its cultural norms. Familiarity does not breed contempt when running a business in a country where you live.

On the flip side, pushing the entrepreneurial envelope by starting a business in another country can make financial sense as well. You just have to know the top 10 countries to open a business in.

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1. Hong Kong

The recent contentious issues with China aside, Hong Kong rank among the top 40 countries in the world for GDP.1 It is also considered the country that has the freest economy in the world.

A relatively low 16.5 percent corporate tax rate attracts businesses that also do not pay customs duties or capital gains taxes.2 Better yet, incorporation in Hong Kong costs only $2,700.3

2. British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands offer the business-friendly one-two punch of a loose regulatory environment and a bustling financial center where entrepreneurs can easily obtain credit. In fact, businesses do not pay offshore, corporation, personal income, and capital gains taxes. Plus, the cost of incorporation in the British Virgin Islands is $2,920.3

3. Panama

The conduit between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans represents one of the busiest international trade hubs across the globe.

Entrepreneurs that value their privacy should find Panama to be a welcoming host nation, as national law protects the confidentiality of banking and business transactions. The country has also modernized its infrastructure, especially in the technology sector.4

4. Cayman Islands

Considered one of the most popular tax havens in the world, the Cayman Islands does not collect corporation, offshore, and capital gains taxes. The stable economic and political environment is ideal for entrepreneurs looking to get their businesses established and growing rapidly.5

Because of its strategic location, the Cayman Islands provide a logistical advantage to entrepreneurs that rely on robust international trade.

5. New Zealand

According to the World Bank, New Zealand is the easiest country in which to conduct business.6

Although the corporation tax sits at 28 percent, the country does not levy a capital gains tax and it provides entrepreneurs a wide variety of tax incentives. Moreover, incorporating your business takes just a couple of hours and the fee for incorporation is one of the lowest charged by any other nation.7

6. Singapore

If you plan to start a business that taps into the lucrative Asian market, Singapore is the best option to grow your business quickly. The government encourages entrepreneurs to set up shop in the country by offering several tax incentives, as well as implementing regulations that foster a free market.

On top of these benefits, Singapore runs a court system that is known for its efficiency by providing businesses with a friendly legal environment in which to operate.8

7. Estonia

Estonia has emerged as a technology hub not only in Eastern Europe, but also throughout the world. Blockchain companies do especially well in this Eastern European nation.

Estonia does not tax retained profits and it taxes distributed profits at a below-average rate of 20 percent. Corporate compliance is simple, as businesses submit all mandatory paperwork electronically.9

8. Cyprus

Cyprus offers a tax-friendly environment, with offshore corporation taxes sitting at 4.25 percent. The country exempts dividends from all taxes if businesses earn the dividends in Cyprus.10

If you are a non-European company that wants access to the European market, Cyprus is one of the best choices to open a business in.

9. Malta

A straightforward incorporation process can get your business up and running in Malta within 10 business days. Access to a highly skilled, English-speaking workforce provides entrepreneurs with the labor resources to grow their companies at a rapid pace.11 The incorporation fee in Malta is lower than average, with it being as low as €245 or as high as €1,750 depending on value of the company.12

10. Switzerland

A corporation tax of only 7.8 percent makes Switzerland a popular location for establishing a company headquarters. Even better, your business will have easy access to the highest-rated banking services in the world.13

Low import duties and just a couple of import quotas attract entrepreneurs that want to grow a business that is dependent on international trade.14

The Bottom Line

Starting a business overseas is more of a viable option than ever. Make sure you educate yourself about each country’s tax laws and company regulations. Learn from entrepreneurs that have opened businesses abroad and ask for advice on which country makes the most sense for your type of business model.