Gibraltar lies at the southern tip of Spain and faces North Africa some 32 km (20 miles) across the Straits. Approximately 30,000 persons are estimated to occupy its 6 sq. km (2.3 sq. miles). Map Gibraltarians are bilingual, speaking Spanish and English, though the latter is used in commerce and legal matters. Gibraltar has been a British Crown Colony since 1704 being formally ceded by Spain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. The Colony enjoys extensive powers of self-government under its 1965 Constitution.
Gibraltar is a full member of the European Union (having joined with the United Kingdom under the provisions relating to dependent territories) but by concession it is excluded from the common external tariff, the common agricultural policy and the requirement to levy value added tax.
The House of Assembly consists of 15 democratic members with the Attorney General and Financial and Development Secretary as exofficio members. The Governor in consultation with the British Government is responsible for defence, security and foreign affairs. Mainland Spain lays claim to sovereignty over the Rock but for historical reasons Gibraltar occupies a special place in Britain's affections. Thus Britain has given assurance to Gibraltar that sovereignty will not be transferred against local wishes. Whilst Spain's claim raises a political question over the future of the Rock, it is thought that as Britain and Spain are partners within a democratic European Union, in the long term, a solution will be found to satisfy both countries and which will allow Gibraltar to nourish as an offshore centre.
As it is a colony, Gibraltarian law is derived exclusively from English law with variations being introduced under local legislation. Gibraltar has grown rapidly as an offshore centre and legal and other professional services are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Gibraltar has excellent, modern telecommunications. The main air connection to Gibraltar is via London to which there are several flights daily. There are also flights to destinations in Europe and Africa and international connections can be made through Spanish airports such as Seville and Malaga.
The currency of Gibraltar is the Gibraltar pound. As this is at par with the pound sterling, British notes and coins are accepted. Gibraltar has no exchange controls. Banking facilities are good and look set to improve further as Gibraltar continues to attract international banking institutions.
In Gibraltar, confidentiality depends on the common law duty of professionals to keep their clients' affairs private. Bank secrecy is strengthened by the local Banking Ordinance although it should be noted that there is a Drug Trafficking Ordinance, 1989 in place. There is no requirement to declare beneficial ownership of a company before incorporation although there is requirement to make disclosure in respect of companies which seek exempt status. Private Gibraltarian companies are not presently required to file accounts with the Registrar of Companies although this may soon change as Gibraltar brings its legislation into line with EU directives governing company matters.
Gibraltar is actually a relatively high tax jurisdiction for its residents so that resident companies pay income tax at a rate of 35% and the standard rate of income tax for individuals is 30% with tax quickly rising to a maximum of 50% but new residents can obtain special tax status under which only the first GBP45,000 of income is subject to tax thereby capping the individual's tax bill at a maximum of just under GBP20,000 per annum. This makes Gibraltar possibly the most attractive place of residency, from a tax point of view, in Europe and this coupled with reasonable living costs and an idyllic climate has resulted in Gibraltar attracting many new wealthy residents.