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Executive Summary
The Cook Islands are a parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand; the islands are located in the South Pacific Ocean and cover a total area of 240 sq km.  Raratonga is the most populated island of the jurisdiction. Avarua is the capital of the Cook Islands.  English and Cook Islands Maori are official languages of the jurisdiction.

Tourists are attracted to the Cook Islands by its beautiful nature, thus making tourism contribute the major part of annual income to the state economy. Other important but less developed economic activities include financial services, pearls and marine market segments.

New Zealand is responsible for defense of the Cook Islands, but in the recent times the islands have adopted a more independent approach to a foreign policy than before. The Cook Islands are not a full member of the UNO. The immigration of skilled workforce to New Zealand represents a problem to the overall development of the Cook Islands.

The New Zealand Dollar (NZD) is the currency used in the Cook Islands.

Geography
The Cook Islands are located between Fiji and French Polynesia, to the North-East of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. Separate islands of the jurisdiction are spread over 2.2 million sq km in the ocean, and are usually referred to as Northern Cook Islands of low coral atolls and Southern Cook Islands of volcanic origin, resulting in a hilly landscape. Te Manga is the highest point reaching 652 meters of height above the sea level. The climate of the Cook Islands is classified as moderate to tropical.

Map, Flag and Coat of Arm


Types of Company

Domestic Limited Company
This type of company has local shareholders and/or conducts a business within the Cook Islands. Every company must obtain a business license for conducting any type of activity within the jurisdiction.

International Business Company
This type of company is widely used for the purposes of conducting an offshore business. Residents of the Cook Islands are not allowed to become beneficial owners of an international business company. In case a business activity is different from banking and insurance, this type of company need not obtain a business license. There are no minimum capital requirements, and bearer shares are allowed. Annual returns must be filed and books must be kept within a registered office in the jurisdiction.

At least one shareholder may incorporate this type of company, one is the minimum number of directors that manages a company. Corporate and non-resident directors are allowed. A company secretary must be a licensed Cook Islands company. Accounts need not be audited and filed.

Registered Listed Company
It is a foreign company which is listed on an approved stock exchange and has re-registered in the Cook Islands as an International Business Company. Such a company’s records are available for public’s inspection. Only with the decision of the court it is possible to effectuate capital reduction.

Foreign Company
It is a foreign company which has re-registered in the Cook Islands. It is usually done when a foreign company wishes to conduct a business activity in the jurisdiction. In case it does not conduct a banking or insurance business, it does not need to obtain a business license.

General Partnership
This structure is allowed for incorporation in the Cook Islands, and all its partners have unlimited liability to a partnership’s debts and obligations.

Limited Partnership
A partnership agreement does not need to be filed in order to register a partnership. At least one of the partners mush have unlimited liability and at least one partner must be a limited partner, liable to a partnership’s debts and obligations up to the capital invested.

International Partnership
One partner of this partnership must be resident and licensed trustee company or an international business company of the Cook Islands. All the other partners need to be non-residents of the Cook Islands.

Trust
A Cook Islands trust is known as an International Trust and must have non-resident beneficiaries at all times. In addition, a licensed trustee must be appointed for exercising trust’s management and/or custody. A trust must be registered with the authorities within 45 days after its creation. There is no longer any perpetuity rule, and the rule against accumulations has been abolished too. A trust can be redomiciled to and from the Cook Islands.

Taxation

Personal
Persons are not liable to capital gains, inheritance, gift, estate and wealth tax. Income tax has a scalable nature and reaches the maximum rate of 30%. The standard rate of VAT is 12.5%. Stamp duties are applied on several transactions. Rates of import duties vary significantly, being slightly over 10% in average.

Corporate
A resident domestic company is liable to pay 20% on its world-wide income, a non-resident domestic company pays 20% on profits derived from business activities conducted within the territory of the Cook Islands. Withholding tax at a rate of 15% is levied on paying out dividends, interests or royalties, but the rate of 5% is withheld in the same transactions paid to residents. Withholding tax is not levied on interests paid by banks to non-residents.

 
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