Fund Administration in the Isle of Man
The Isle of Man, amongst many other things, is an ideal centre for the administration of niche fund and investment products. The legislation in place offers a wide variety of fund structures around which the most appropriate investment vehicle may be constructed.
Moreover, the Island has developed over many years, a robust political and financial infrastructure with an emphasis on pragmatic regulation. The purpose of this paper is to give a brief background to the Isle of Man fund environment and to focus on one particular type of popular structure available in the Isle of Man, the Closed-Ended Investment Company or “CEIC”. CEIC’s have been successfully used by many fund promoters in recent years as the vehicle of choice when establishing an investment company, be it a private unlisted company or a stock market listed company. It should be remembered that the information contained within this paper is for guidance only and interested parties should consult the relevant original legislation when structuring an Isle of Man product.
The Constitutional position of the Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is a self-governing dependency of the British Crown and is not part of the United Kingdom. Through long-established constitutional convention, the Isle of Man has autonomy in relation to its domestic affairs, including taxation and business law. As the Island is not a member state of the European Union (as provided under Protocol 3 to the Act of Accession), EU rules only apply to the Isle of Man in relation to a limited range of matters. Tynwald, the Island’s parliament, has been in existence for over 1,000 years and is the world’s oldest continuously functioning parliament. As a common law jurisdiction, the Island’s legal traditions draw heavily on those of England providing a level of familiarity when dealing with the Island.
The Isle of Man has developed a reputation as a jurisdiction of quality through its enactment of pragmatic legislation enabling industry to operate in a business friendly environment whilst at the same time adhering to international standards of financial supervision. Fund managers, administrators, and providers of corporate and fiduciary services, are regulated by the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority (“FSA”) and to complement the licensing framework for the regulation of such entities, the Island has adopted extensive measures to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Closed-ended Investment Companies
Legislation in the Isle of Man makes a fundamental distinction between an “open-ended investment company” and a “closed-ended investment company”. Open-ended investment companies are corporate vehicles which provide investors with a right of exit by allowing them to redeem their shares and are considered to be collective investment schemes for the purposes of Isle of Man law.
A collective investment scheme or fund is subject to regulation in the Isle of Man under the Collective Investment Schemes (“CIS”) legislation whilst a CEIC, which provides no such right of exit, is not currently subject to the same CIS regulations. To that end, a CEIC is treated in the same way as any other operating company for regulatory purposes and, as a result of this approach, there are a number of important advantages to operating such a company from the Isle of Man including:
• no regulatory pre-approval requirements for launch in the Isle of Man
• no requirement for a licensed fund manager or administrator to be appointed
• no prescriptive requirements as regards board composition
• no requirement for a separate custodian
• no restrictions on asset classes, investment strategy or leverage
• no prescriptive rules about permitted investors or minimum subscription requirements
Companies – both traditional and modern
Company legislation introduced in 2006 has given promoters wishing to use an Isle of Man investment company the choice between using a vehicle incorporated under the Companies Act 2006 or alternatively a more traditional vehicle established under the Companies Act 1931.
Key features of a 2006 Act company are:
• minimal administrative requirements
• flexible capital structure
• limited disclosure requirements
• suitably regulated registered agent must be appointed
1931 Act companies draw heavily on English corporate legislation and therefore have more prescriptive administrative and statutory filing requirements.
Listing an Isle of Man CEIC
Isle of Man CEIC’s are suitable for listing on many recognised investment exchanges and over the years have proved to be a popular choice of vehicle for listing on the AIM Market in particular. A CEIC is not required to appoint a licensed fund administrator, however an Isle of Man corporate services provider may be required to deliver statutory and on-going compliance services.
The Isle of Man offers a tax neutral environment in many cases with no capital taxes and a zero rate of corporate tax for CEIC’s. Value added tax may, however be payable on fees levied by certain functionaries to an investment company, dependent on the jurisdiction in which they are based.