Working in the Bahamas?
Doing Business in the Bahamas
General Etiquette in the Bahamas
Bahamians are known to be very outgoing and informal, with a strong sense of the importance of hospitality. You will learn that locals like to talk to strangers, and even invite them into their house on occasion. Harmless banter and poking fun at others is just as common as making fun of yourself. Despite all the joking around, keep in mind that religion is of great value in the Bahamas. Many events are opened with a prayer, and verses from the bible are common in everyday speech. Sunday is highly valued as a holy day on which people dress up in their best Sunday clothes to attend service. It is important, both during work as well as during everyday life, to be respectful of this factor.
Doing Business: Straightforward but Friendly
Although people in the Bahamas are rather relaxed and informal, you should take care to act professionally. Always address your business partners with their academic titles and surnames — don’t move to a first-name basis until invited to do so, which may take a little longer than on other Caribbean islands. Although business cards are exchanged without any formal ritual you should still try to be respectful during introductions, as it is seen as a representation of how you will treat this business relationship. Don’t bend the card, shove it in your pocket, and definitely don’t write on it. The latter is considered particularly rude.
Bahamians are quite straightforward in their communication style, although they often make sure to remain friendly and humorous. Make sure to always arrive on time for your business meetings, even if your business partners may not do so. The negotiation style may be influenced by the UK and US, but Bahamians are more hierarchical. Meetings are often about discussing decisions which have already been made rather than about negotiating. Because personal relationships are considered important, a big portion of the meetings is spent on speaking about topics unrelated to business.
The Taxation System: It’s All a Bit Different
The good news for expats who wish to work or start a business in the Bahamas is that there is no personal income tax, corporate income tax, capital gains tax, or inheritance tax (although there is property tax). Next to a value added tax of 7.5% first introduced in 2015, tariffs on imported goods are one of the a main sources of government revenue for the Bahamas, contributing 60% of the total revenue. You must pay a duty fee on your imports, and this can be anywhere between 0% to 200%, depending on the type of goods. For example, there is no duty on computer software and books but between 100% and 200% on gasoline and tobacco. There is also a 7% stamp tax on all goods imported for business use.
As an expat to the Bahamas, you will not be taxed on your income, but it is likely that you will have to pay a national insurance contribution (the equivalent to social security) of 9.8% of your weekly salary, of which you will pay 3.9% and your employer will pay 5.9%. However, this can differ based on your total income — visit the National Insurance Board of the Bahamas for more information.
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