If you are interested in starting a business in Jamaica, there are a number of legal requirements that must be followed. Jamaica’s Business Name Act of 1934 makes it illegal to start a business without first registering it with Companies of Jamaica, which was formerly called the Office of the Registrar of Companies.
There are several benefits associated with registering your company or business. Your business is shown on the website of the Companies of Jamaica. It will go up on the website just a week after you’ve registered it. Also, you will have access to loans and grants, be able to get government and other contracts, and inspire the confidence of your customers when they know they are dealing with a legal, registered entity.
Before registering with Companies of Jamaica, however, you must decide upon the type of legal structure your business will have. Your options include sole trader, partnership, company, or co-operative. Once you’ve decided, you can then create a name for your business or company and request two very important numbers: the Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN) and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) reference number. The applications for both of these numbers require:
- 2 passport-size photographs that have been signed by a Justice of the Peace
- a copy of your Birth Certificate
Once you have your TRN and NIS numbers, you can take the next step, which is to register with the Inland Revenue Department to obtain permission to take various legal tax deductions, such as those for:
- Income tax
- Education tax (ED tax)
- General Consumption Tax (GCT)
If necessary, you will need to obtain the appropriate patents of copyrights from the Jamaican Intellectual Property Office. After that, you can register with the National Housing Trust (NHT) and apply for a Tax Compliance Certificate (TCC).
In order to get a TCC, you must obtain a clearance letter from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) office, the National Housing Trust (NHT) office, and provide your Business Name Certificate.
In addition, you may new to comply with other licensing and/or inspections from the appropriate government agencies, such as the Bureau of Standards. Specific industries must also provide an Environmental Impact Assessment.
There are also other legal requirements associated with each type of business structure.
If you operate your business as a sole trader, you must submit a completed BN1 form. If you are selling tangible goods, you must submit proof of residential address and a TRN , you must also submit 3 passport-size photographs signed by a Justice of the Peace. Registration as a sole trader costs JA$2,000.00.
Partnerships can legally exist with as few as 2 persons or as many as 20 persons. If you want to register your business as a partnership, you must submit:
- A completed BN2 form
- Proof of residential address and TRN are required for the applicant
- Optional 3 passport-size photographs of each partner, signed by a Justice of the Peace
- The National Identification Card of each partner
The registration fee for a partnership is JA$2,000.00
A business structured as a company must submit:
- A completed Form 1, Declaration of Compliance
- A completed Form 1A, Articles of Incorporation
- A completed Form 17, Address of Company
Form 1A must be stamped at the Stamp Office and Transfer Tax Department, which is located at 111 Harbour Street in Kingston. The cost for the stamp is $500.
Registration fee for a company is JA$12,000.
Additionally, companies must submit Form 20, which states the Board of Directors, with at the time of registration or 14 days after registration for $4,000, but forms submitted after the end of the 14-day period will cost $6,000.
All forms must be signed by a Justice of the Peace.
A co-operative must have a minimum of 10 persons. If you want to form a co-operative, you must register with the Department of Co-Operatives and Friendly Societies. To register, you must provide:
- A letter that requests registration to form a co-operative business
- Statement of the nature of the business
- 3 mistake-free copies of the co-operatives proposed rules
- 2 completed application forms, plus the registration fee of $2,000.00
- 2 copies of a completed registration agreement, signed by the co-operative’s relevant officers
- A project proposal that includes a business plan, cash-flow projections and/or feasibility study for a 5-year period. This should show the plans monthly for the first year, and then yearly for subsequent years.
When forming a co-operative, you must also form a steering committee from among the members. A steering committee should comprise an odd number of members, e.g., 5, 7, or 9 members. Additionally, the committee must be trained in Co-operative Management. Training is conducted for a minimum of 10 hours at a cost of $900 per hour.
If your business will be involved with agricultural products, animals, or textiles, there are some additional requirements. For example, you may have to get:
- An approval letter from the Plant Quarantine Division, Ministry of Agriculture, which certifies that the packaging house for fresh products has been inspected and certified
- Registration with the Bureau of Standards, if you export processed foods
- Certification from the Veterinary Service Division, Ministry of Agriculture, if you are exporting aqua culture, inland and marine products and by-products
- If exporting textiles, a list of machinery, equipment, categories of employees, and a monthly production plan
For export and import businesses, the registration process requires the following:
- Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) Exporter Registration Form (JN1)
- Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN)
- A copy of the Certificate of Incorporation or a copy of the Certification of Business Name obtained from the Companies of Jamaica office (for a company)
- Proof of identification for individuals, which may be a passport, driver’s license, etc.
- A passport-size photograph
A Business Name Certification is valid for three years from the registration date.
You should also be aware that there are some additional costs associated with registration:
- Re-registration costs for a company or individuals at JA$2,000.000 every 3 years
- All free-zone companies must pay US$275.00
- Co-operatives must pay an optional $3000.00 for the preparation of rules, or buy a model rule, which costs $3,000.000 for a hard copy and $2,500 for an electronic copy.
The following are the names, addresses, and other contact information of the agencies responsible for various portions of the business registration process:
Tax Administrator Jamaica (For the latest tax information)
To register your company
For the Taxpayer Registration Number
12 Ocean Blvd.
(876) 922-7429 phone
(876) 922-3913 phone
(876) 922-7110 fax
You can also find out information about the TRN by contacting your local tax office
For the Tax Compliance Certificate
Tax Compliance Certificate Unit
12 Ocean Blvd.
(876) 967-0212 phone
(876) 967-0093 phone
Toll free: 1-800-Tax-HELP
For National Insurance Scheme (NIS) registration
National Insurance Scheme
18 Ripon Rd.
(876) 929-7144-6 phone
For Income Tax and General Consumption Tax
Inland Revenue Department
1-3 King Street
(876) 922-7919 phone
(876) 922-5683 phone
For National Housing Trust registration
For Product Protection (including design)
Jamaica Intellectual Property Office
36 Trafalgar Road
Other Useful Addresses
Jamaica Promotions Corporation
18 Trafalgar Square
Scientific Research Council
PO Box 350
Old Hope Road
(876) 927-1771-4 phone
(876) 977-2190-1 phone
(876) 927-1990 administration fax
(876) 927-2194 R&D fax
Bureau of Standards
6 Winchester Rd.
(876) 926-3140 phone