Gibraltar is a self-governing and self-financing British overseas territory located at the southern tip of Spain and covering an area of around 7 square kilometres. It is one of the two mythological Pillars of Hercules, the other being on the African continent across the Strait of Gibraltar. To the Romans, Gibraltar marked not only the end of their “Mare Nostrum”, but also the end of the world, “plus ultra”, nothing beyond. In Greek mythology, Gibraltar was the entrance to Hades.
Gibraltar is physically part of Europe; it is not an island which allows easy access to Spain, Portugal and beyond. With a state-of-the-art international airport, Gibraltar offers flights to and from a number of UK destinations on a daily basis as well as Tangier in Morocco.
Gibraltar has a deep sea port which can berth all but the largest of ships. It is an attractive and a convenient port of call at a strategic location both for merchant vessels, cruise liners and yachts. There are two large marinas offering excellent berthing facilities.
The population of Gibraltar is in the region of 30,000. The vast majority of the population are native Gibraltarians of mixed ancestry from Malta, Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Genoa. The official language of Gibraltar is English, although the majority of Gibraltarians are typically bilingual, speaking Spanish as fluently as English.
Political Status, Gibraltar Parliament and Currency
Gibraltar was formally ceded to Great Britain by Spain in perpetuity under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. Today, Gibraltar is a British overseas territory with a modern constitutional relationship with the UK. Our Constitution provides for complete self-government, almost total autonomy and guarantees that Gibraltar will remain British unless the people of Gibraltar vote to change this. The UK retains responsibility for Gibraltar’s defence and its foreign affairs.
Gibraltar is self-governing through its democratically elected parliament based on the British system. The Gibraltar Parliament consists of 17 elected members and the speaker. Laws in Gibraltar are enacted by the Gibraltar Parliament passing bills which are assented to by the Governor. The Governor is appointed by the UK government as a representative of the Crown. Many enactments are modelled on UK equivalents with amendments to suit Gibraltar’s own particular requirements. More information may be seen at http://www.parliament.gi/.
We have a common-law legal system modelled on that of the United Kingdom. English case law is generally binding in Gibraltar and this is often relied upon by our courts. Our laws consist of Gibraltar Acts of Parliament, the English common law and principles of equity, some English Acts of Parliament which have force on law in Gibraltar and European Union law. The practice and procedure used in civil and criminal matters largely reflect the practice and procedure used in England and Wales with variations to suit local conditions.
The court system in Gibraltar is similar to that of England and Wales. Gibraltar has its own Magistrates Court, Coroner’s Court and Supreme Court. The Magistrates Court primarily deals with criminal and administrative matters. The Supreme Court is the equivalent of the High Court and Crown Court in England and Wales. It has unlimited jurisdiction to hear and determine any civil or criminal proceedings. It deals with serious criminal matters which fall out of the remit of the Magistrates Court. Family, Chancery and Admiralty legal matters are also heard in the Supreme Court. The first appellate court is the Gibraltar Court of Appeal that sits in Gibraltar periodically. A right of further appeal lies to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. Gibraltar also benefits from an Industrial Tribunal that deals with employment law matters and is in fact occasionally chaired by our Senior Partner, Eric Ellul. More information may be seen at http://www.gcs.gov.gi/.
Gibraltar lawyers train in England and Wales as either barristers or solicitors. Gibraltar enjoys the benefits of a fused legal profession with both barristers and solicitors having full rights of audience in all Gibraltar courts.
Gibraltar’s Position in Europe & Relationship with the EU
Gibraltar was formerly a part of the EU but it left togh3 the United Kingdom in 2019 and all the advantages and obligations of EU membership ended in December 2020 at the end of the transition period.
Gibraltar is outside the EU and it is not a part of the Schengen Agreement which provides for the abolition of passport controls throughout the EU. However, it enjoys a free-flowing frontier with neighbouring Spain across the land frontier further to agreements entered into with the Spanish Government in this regard.
Currently, the United Kingdom and the EU are negotiating a Treaty which will allow the Schengen zone to be extended to Gibraltar. This will allow persons in Gibraltar to access the whole of the Schengen zone travel area without going through passport controls.
Financial Services Regulation
The Financial Services Commission (“FSC”) is an independent statutory body established by an Act of the Gibraltar Parliament (“the Financial Services Commission Act 2007”). It is responsible for licensing and regulating all financial services activity in Gibraltar including banking, insurance, investment services, funds, trust and company management.
The FSC has the necessary expertise to regulate to an exceptional level and efficiently ensure that the provisions of all EU directives relevant to the finance centre are complied with. This guarantees that Gibraltar licenced professionals and institutions operate in accordance with the very highest standards. More information may be seen at http://www.fsc.gi/fsc/home.htm.
Gibraltar maintains an independent tax status and can enact its own tax legislation independently of Britain. In Gibraltar, there is no VAT, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, wealth tax, gift tax, withholding tax and no tax on interest or gains made on monetary investments.
In addition, there is no taxation on dividends to any company or to a non-resident individual. This makes Gibraltar an attractive jurisdiction to set up holding companies as dividend can be received completely free of tax.
Taxable profits are charged with corporation tax of 10% since 1st January 2011. However, (with the exceptions of royalties and loan interest of more than £100,000 per annum), only income which accrues in or is derived from Gibraltar is subject to corporation tax in Gibraltar.
Gibraltar operates a low tax regime including a tax residency scheme for individuals with net assets in excess of £2m (conditions apply) capping the maximum personal income tax at between £22,000 and £27,500.
Assessment and collection of tax is administered by the Commissioner of Income Tax. The tax year runs from 1st July to the following 30th June.
Gibraltar has a thriving and diverse economy. It is built on four distinct sectors: financial services, shipping, tourism and e-gaming. Gibraltar’s prosperous economy has proven to be strong and robust even during the recent global financial crisis, with our gross domestic product steadily growing year and year.
Gibraltar offers a vibrant property market with an excellent choice of high quality housing. Gibraltar provides diverse marina facilities capable of berthing large luxury yachts. It is a Mediterranean territory and as such enjoys excellent weather and lifestyle.