29 January, 2008

Business Licence

No, there Are No Licences Required in Anguilla for Doing Business. I cannot believe it. A civil service friend of mine contacted me recently. He had been told that he had to get a business licence to continue to do his photography business. He has a good camera. He tells me that he has been taking photographs for years. He has started to earn some money from his hobby. He does not have a photo studio, just his home. He does not have a sign outside his home advertising that he is doing business from there. He has no studio in his home. All his advertising is by word of mouth. He has got some real lucrative commercial work recently. Word has got back to the Inland Revenue. Someone in his department tapped him on his shoulder and told him that questions were being asked. Did he have a business licence? If he did not get a licence he was going to get in trouble! So, he had gone to Inland Revenue and paid for and obtained the licence. It cost him about US$1,000.00. He has been told he has to renew it annually.

He asked me the question. Did he need a business licence to do what he was doing? The answer is a resounding NO! There is no licence required for doing business as such in Anguilla. There never has been.

About 20 years ago, Lawyer Fred Kelsick tested the law. Fred Kelsick was a St Kitts lawyer. He has died now. He used to come to Anguilla to represent his clients in court and give advice and other legal services. Charlie Gumbs of the Quarter was his agent. You made appointments by contacting Charlie to find out when Mr Kelsick was coming next to Anguilla. Mr Kelsick interviewed his clients outside the court house, under the loblolly tree that is still there. That was the old court house, which we now know as the “Statistics Department”. The police served a summons on Mr Kelsick. It had been approved by the Attorney-General. The charge was for working as a lawyer in Anguilla without a business licence contrary to section 3 of the Trades, Businesses, Occupations and Professions Act. I do not remember who the Magistrate was. He threw out the charge. The Magistrate ruled that you don’t need a licence to do business in Anguilla.

You do not have to be a lawyer to see why he threw out the charge and told the police not to harass Mr Kelsick. You only have to be able to read a simple sentence. Section 3 of the Act reads:

Obligation to obtain licence to carry on certain trades, businesses, occupations and professions

3. Every person carrying on any trade, business, occupation or profession set out in the Schedule shall take out an annual licence in accordance with the provisions of this Act in respect of each premises or place where such trade, business, occupation or profession is carried on, and shall only carry on such trade, business, occupation or profession from such premises or place.

It should be obvious. The licence is in respect of “each premises or place where such trade, business, occupation or profession is carried on”. If you set up an office in your home, advertise it, and have customers come to your home to conduct the business, it is arguable that your home is a place of business. But, if you only practice your profession in a public place like a courthouse, and interview your clients under the loblolly tree, then you do not have a place of business that can be licensed. Nor do you have to.

The late Clement Daniels used to have a retail business called Galaxy Shoppe. It had two outlets. One was at Wallblake. He had another branch at The Valley where Brodie runs his retail outlet. He had two places of business. He had to obtain two licences under the Act.

My friend does not have a place of business. What he is doing does not require a place of business. He goes out on assignment to take photographs. He is photographing a wedding at a hotel one day, at an event of one kind of another at a different place the next day. The Act goes on to say that if you do have a licensed place of business, you cannot open additional branches all over the island. If does not say that you cannot carry on a business without having a licensed place of business. Do you think that my friend needs a licence?

Well, do we need an Ombudsman in Anguilla, or do we not?

I told my civil service friend I hoped he had permission from the Governor to be doing an outside business. But, that is another story.


  1. That explains why taxi drivers do not need a business licence. I always wondered. They are about the only self-employed people in Anguilla that are not told they have to get a business licence.

    I always assumed it was because they would make too much noise if they were asked to pay!

  2. Another thought...about boat charter people or even ferry boats ? are they the same as taxi drivers? Do they need a license as they are conducting business on the sea?

  3. Correction.
    Clement Daniei operated his second branch Galaxy store at the place where Gumbs Connor/Dr. Connor carry on their respective practices. Mrs. Woods carried on business where Briodie operated.

  4. Correction.
    Clement Daniei operated his second branch Galaxy store at the place where Gumbs Connor/Dr. Connor carry on their respective practices. Mrs. Woods carried on business where Briodie operated.

  5. And there is the Privy Council decision in the L v. G matter in Anguilla , dealing with both Business Licences and Work Permits.

    L was a Non- Belonger employed by a hotel as Manager. The Employer had a Work Permit for L to work as General Manager. The Chairman of the Employer Company entered into an agreement with L where L would seek purchasers of Villas for a Commission.

    L sued when he claimed he did refer a purchaser who bought, but the Employer refused to pay the full commission.,

    In its defence the Employer raised the fact that L did not have a WP to carry on the business of a Real Estate Agent; that his WP restricted his lawful employment to hotel General manager; that L was working as a Real Estate Agent in contravention of the Business, Trades etc Act. He didnt have a WP entitling him to do anything other than Manage the Hotel and he was not licenced to do any Real Estate business in Anguilla.

    Bottom line in the judgment was (a) the PC held that L was not carrying on any business as he was only dealing with his employer in finding buyers and did not require a Licence for that; that he was not carrying on a business and certainly not from any premises ( Mitchell's point); and that the work he did selling villas was "one off" work for his employer and he did not require a WP for that. This last part is offensive in that any work is work and a foreigner must first obtain a WP. But the first part is sound. The Act requires that the premises from which the business is carried on be licenced. The Business Licences pertain to the premises, not the Business.

    The Business Licence strategy is primarilly a taxing Statute designed to raise revenue. It can be used, wrongly, to prohibit certain persons or types of businesses from operating.

    A good fearless Lawyer would not hesitate to take legal action against the Government when merited.

    The people must not be afraid of the Government, the People's Servants, or the Government Departments. That is why we have Courts and the Rule of Law.

    The Revenue Department and the Ministry of Finance sometimes run close to the edge in the execution of their Statutory obligations. It is wise to bring them in line in the Courts, lest we have dictatorship by the governors derived from fear.

    Great post Mr. Mitchell.

  6. I think charter boats and ferry boats pay a business licence, but fishermen who are also self-employed do not pay a business licence. They are required however, to have a fisherman's licence which they are not even paying

  7. Mitchell:
    It seems to me that it can be successfully argued that, unless this individual receives all his contacts via cell phone and word of mouth in the public sphere and no actives associated with this work is conducted at his house, including storing the camera, cell phone and its assessories (batteries, charger, etc.) printing and/or emailing the pictures etc. to the client, keeping an appointment book,payment, etc., then he is actually conducting business at his house and therefore needs a business licence. At a minimum, it seems that just as taxi-drivers required a taxi licence, your friend should need a photographer's licence. Please share your thoughts. Thanks.

  8. The Law states that:

    Each place of business chargeable
    4. (1) Where different places of business, stores, shops or other premises are operated in the
    name of one person or firm, a separate licence shall be obtained for each place of business, store, shop
    or other premises, but a store or place of reception of goods at which no sales are effected shall be
    deemed not to come within the meaning of this section.

    So clearly any place used as storage does NOT need a Licence as long as there are NO SALES TAKING PLACE.

  9. I'm a little late to the chase... but curious, as an American visiting Anguilla to photograph a wedding, do I need a business license to do this? Supposedly the hotel is telling our bride that I will need a permit of some sort.

  10. To the photographer who posted the above question on 10/22/10:

    Unfortunately, this blog is not currently active so I don't who may see it, and I'm not the one who knows the specific answer to your question. My guess, however, is that the hotel is talking about a work permit, which is different here than a business license. My understanding it that anyone doing any kind of work on Anguilla must have a work permit. I suggest that you contact Kirk Russell, a photographer who is extremely friendly helpful and will know the answer to your question. You can find his contact information at www.anguillamemories.com.

    Good luck!


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