Register company in El Salvador
El Salvador is an overlooked, yet growing economy in Central America. El Salvador’s steady economic growth and diverse, unexplored, and unexploited markets create a very unique atmosphere for new businesses in the region. If you have never considered El Salvador as a country ripe with business opportunities, perhaps now is the time.
Our service package includes everything that you need to register company in El Salvador:
- Company registration with the El Salvador Registry of Commerce
- Provision of local nominee director
- Local company secretary and registered address
- Opening a corporate bank account
- Annual accounting and tax services
Benefits of registering a Company in El Salvador
- There are many reasons why investors prefer to register company in El Salvador and as an investment destination, but the major ones include the following:
- Easy incorporation process – the requirements, as well as the process for El Salvador company registration, are simple and easy. For example, to incorporate a limited liability company, you only require two shareholders and one director of any nationality. Again, the minimum paid-up capital is only US$100. Besides, it is possible to incorporate a company in El Salvador without traveling to the country.
- The Free Zones – El Salvador has free zones where foreign investors have the freedom to start manufacturing companies that will attract free income tax and VAT for all the products that the company will export overseas.
- No restrictions on foreign trade – in El Salvador, there are no restrictions imposed on foreign trade as well as all the transactions involving foreign currencies. The dollar is the local currency, and in the absence of such restrictions, investors in El Salvador have a competitive advantage when doing business in the region.
- The country is ideal for manufacturing companies – El Salvador is ideal for manufacturing for many reasons, with the main ones being:
- Low operational costs
- The country is a member of DR-CAFTA which is a trade agreement between the Dominican Republic, Central American countries, and the United States. It eliminates customs duty for trades between the member states.
- It has two major ports responsible for moving millions of goods between Central America, the United States, and Asia.
- According to the Index of Economic Freedom 2019, El Salvador is ranked the 16th freest economy in the Americas.
How long does it take to register company in El Salvador and open a corporate bank account?
- Tetra Consultants will complete your El Salvador company registration within 3 weeks. After receiving the required due diligence documents of the directors and shareholders, Tetra Consultants will search for the availability of your preferred company name in the Delaware Division of Corporations.
- Throughout the whole company registration process, you will not be required to travel to El Salvador.
- After Tetra Consultants has registered your El Salvador company, you can expect to receive the documents of your new company including the certificate of formation, memorandum and articles of association as well as the register of directors and shareholders.
- Within 4 weeks upon company registration, Tetra Consultants will open a corporate bank account either a local or international reputable bank.
- Consequently, you can expect to start operations and issue invoices with your El Salvador company within 7 weeks upon engaging Tetra Consultants.
- If you are keen to know more about the process, Tetra Consultants has prepared a step-by-step explanation of all steps required for El Salvador company registration.
Can a foreigner own a business in El Salvador?
- The Government of El Salvador recognizes that attracting foreign direct investments is crucial to improving the economy. El Salvador does not have laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors. The Government of El Salvador does not screen or prohibit foreign direct investments.
- The Exports and Investment Promotion Agency of El Salvador (PROESA) supports investment in eight main sectors: textiles and apparel, business services, tourism, aeronautics, agro-industry, light manufacturing, logistic and infrastructure networks, and healthcare services.
- Foreign citizens and private companies can freely establish businesses in El Salvador. The 1999 Investments Law grants equal treatment to foreign and domestic investors.
Types of entities to be considered when registering a company in El Salvador
- Selecting the right type of company in El Salvador is the first and one of the most important steps in order to open a business. There are some advantages and disadvantages to each type, but to choose one, it is necessary to think about the objectives and goals of the company, as well as the requirements.
- At the start of the engagement to register company in El Salvador, Tetra Consultants will fully understand your business activities and needs before recommending the most optimum business entity in El Salvador. Some considerations we take into account include the type of business activity, tax obligations, and nationalities of shareholders and directors. Our consultants will also offer more information on the requirements imposed to set up these entities.
The most common types of commercial companies in El Salvador, and their main characteristics, are:
Limited Liability Company (Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada or S.R.L)
- The key differentiating aspect of this company structure is that capital investment is not reliant on stocks, but rather on well-established membership interest. “Partners” supplant shareholders under this structure. The Management Regimen can only be formed by the management, who selects the partners and manager/s who will function as the company’s legal representatives. Partners can accept the position of legal representative for the company if they are not designated under management or if their legal function has expired.
- Some of the minimum regulatory requirements to be fulfilled to incorporate a limited liability company in El Salvador are:
- At least 2 shareholders (designated directors) of any foreign nationality;
- At least 1 residential director (who will act as the legal representative);
- A registered local address;
- No minimum capital requirement.
- This business structure is most typically used by private companies and when partners and a third party desire to participate in the establishment of the company. Once the partners have agreed on the above-indicated requirements, the company’s denomination or name must include the words “Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada” for registration requirements.
- An El Salvador LLC is required to appoint an auditor and submit the annual audited financial report. Additionally, an LLC in El Salvador is charged corporate tax at the standard rate of 30% if only the income is sourced in the country.
Corporation (Sociedad Anónima or S.A.)
- In El Salvador, this is the most prevalent form of business. As such shareholders are prevalent in this structure, and company capital is based on stocks. A board of directors or independent management is responsible for the legal representation of this corporate structure. Like an LLC, under this structure, the naming requirements of an entity must be satisfied accordingly all firms in this category must have the words “Sociedad Anónima” in their titles.
- Some of the requirements to incorporate a corporation structure in El Salvador are:
- At least 2 shareholders of any nationality
- At least 1 director must be a resident of El Salvador (who will act as the legal representative of the company)
- A registered local address
- Minimum share capital of US$2,000.
Branches of foreign companies
- These are foreign companies that can perform commercial activities in the Salvadorian territory, establishing their residence in the country through a branch. For such purpose, they must register their capital before the National Investment Office of the Ministry of Economy, followed by their registration before the Commercial Registry.
How to register a company in El Salvador?
- Tetra Consultants advises you to read through this guide to fully understand the steps required to register company in El Salvador and set up a bank account.
- By systematically following the 7 steps below, you can expect to start conducting business with your El Salvador company within 7 weeks.
Step 1: Choosing an optimum business structure
- Prior to company formation, it is essential to choose the correct type of company. Tetra Consultants will advise you on the most optimum business entity to suit your needs. Generally, the most common type of company in El Salvador is the limited liability company, which is also known as a company limited by shares.
Step 1: Choosing an optimum business structure
- Tetra Consultants will search and reserve your company name through the El Salvador Registry of Commerce.
Step 3: Preparation and notarization of relevant documents required to register company in El Salvador
- Once your company name has been approved, Tetra Consultants will proceed to prepare and notarize the relevant corporate documents such as the appropriate forms and the articles of association required to register company in El Salvador.
- After the relevant documents have been prepared, Tetra Consultants will register your company with the El Salvador Registry of Commerce.
- Upon successful registration of your company, you will receive the Certificate of Formation and a certified copy of the company’s Articles of Organization.
Step 4: Corporate bank account opening
- Simultaneously with the registration of your company, Tetra Consultants will proceed to open a corporate bank account. Since you will be required to deposit at least 5% of the share capital before moving forward with the registration of the entity with the Registry of Commerce.
- Tetra Consultants will assist in consolidating the documents and opening a corporate bank account with a reputable bank of your choice.
- For many banks in El Salvador, traveling to El Salvador to open a bank account in person is often preferred by local banks. However, not all local banks have such a requirement. If travel is required, we will have a representative accompany you to the bank meeting. Alternatively, our team will negotiate with the banks to conduct a conference call instead or request a waiver.
- Once the bank account has been successfully opened, Tetra Consultants will courier the internet banking token and access codes to your preferred address.
Step 5: Post-registration compliances
- Following your entity’s registration, Tetra Consultants will assist you with registering your company with the relevant governmental authorities. Since, all Salvadorian companies must be registered with the Ministry of Labor, the Tax Authorities (Hacienda), and the Salvadorian Institute of Social Security.
- Additionally, within 15 days after the registration at the Mercantile Registry, the company has to be registered at the Ministry of Finance (Ministerio de Hacienda) to obtain an NIT (Número de Identificación Tributaria) and RNC (Número de Registro del Contribuyente). In order to do so, the company must submit the documentation of the shareholders, their personal information, personal NIT, as well as proof of registration at the Mercantile Registry.
Step 6: Legalization of the company books by an auditor
- Tetra Consultants will assist you in getting the legalization of books of account of your entity as Article 40 of the Code of Commerce, states that the books can be legalized either by the external auditor or by the Registry of Commerce.
Step 7: Register employees with either of the two Pension Fund Administrator
- Moving forward Tetra Consultants will proceed to register the employees of your entity with the El Salvador Pension Fund Administrators (Administradora de Fondos de Pensiones).
Types of business-activities
The main business activities among foreign entrepreneurs in El Salvador are:
- Cryptocurrency business
- Production of electricity
- Textile industry
- Transport infrastructure.
Restricted for foreign entrepreneurs are the following business activities
- Television and radio
- Postal services
- Banking and certain financial services
- Air transport.
Tax and accounting obligations
- Accounting and tax considerations are important factors when incorporating your company. By outsourcing your El Salvador accounting and tax obligations to Tetra Consultants, you can be confident that you will be in the best hands. Our team of consultants will ensure that your firm’s financial statements, corporate tax returns, and audits are timely and completed without the need for you to travel.
- Additionally, outsourcing your accounting and tax needs to Tetra Consultants will allow you to reduce overhead costs while be ensured of timely reporting and filings. Before the start of the engagement, our accounting team will also keep you updated on all the required deadlines and expectations. Thereafter, we will prepare all required filings in advance to ensure that the stipulated deadlines are met.
There are various tax regimes in El Salvador, which in general are governed by the provisions of the General Office of Internal Revenue (DGII) and the General Customs Office (DGA), under the authority of the Treasury Department ( Ministerio de Hacienda ). The DGII is in charge of:
- the Income tax and related taxes;
- Tax on the transfer of movable goods and the rendering of services (VAT);
- Specific and ad valorem taxes;
- Other taxes, such as special contributions.
- The corporate income tax (CIT) rate is 30%, and this rate is applicable to the total amount of the company’s revenues. There is a reduced CIT rate of 25% for companies that obtain taxable income equal to or less than US$150,000 in the fiscal year.
- El Salvador corporate tax is based on the principle of territoriality, and, by general rule, taxes are paid on goods located, activities realized, and capital invested in El Salvador as well as on services rendered or utilized in the country. Nevertheless, there is a special rule regarding securities and financial instruments, since such income is considered to be obtained in El Salvador if the issuing entity is domiciled in El Salvador.
Value-added tax (VAT)
- Valued added tax is payable on the transaction where Any transfer of goods or services rendered is taxable, also real estate transactions only with regards to payment of rent.
- VAT’s general rate is 13%, and a zero tax rate is applicable for exports of goods and services. There are also some VAT exemptions for specific foreign entities and certain citizens under reciprocity treatment agreements.
- VAT has a 1-month taxable period. Therefore, the tax must be paid and a VAT return filed monthly. The VAT return must be filed and paid in full on the filing date, 10 working days after the closing of the monthly period.
Other tax considerations
- Most Customs Duties are charged from 0% to 20%, with exemptions for countries with which El Salvador has Free trade agreements such as the USA, Central America, México, Dominican Republic, and Chile.
- The Instituto Salvadoreño del Seguro Social manages and operates the Social Security System and the National Health System. These systems provide services and benefits related to illness treatment (Health Care), disability, maternity, and death insurance. Social Security taxes are applicable to employers and employees. The taxes are based on the monthly salaries with a 7.5 % rate for the employer and 3 % for the employee, with a maximum payment of US$20.57.
El Salvador and Bitcoin
As El Salvador becomes the first country to use bitcoin as legal tender following were the most speculated immediate effects of the legislation on the country as a whole :
- In every transaction, bitcoin can be used without restrictions to pay off debt;
- Using bitcoin as payment for products or services will be possible;
- Bitcoin can be used to pay taxes of any kind;
- Any prior debt denominated in US dollars can be settled in bitcoin;
- The US dollar will continue to be the reference currency for accounting standards, and the government will set up a mechanism that enables consumers to convert bitcoin instantly and automatically into US dollars.
Accordingly, the legislation concerning the use of bitcoin in El Salvador as the legal tender was published in the official gazette by the Salvadorian government on June 9th, 2021. The law became operative in the country on September 7, 2021. Even then, the recent crash in prices of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has put the Salvadorian government in trouble, it is too early to predict the extensive repercussions of the same on the country but it is undeniable that El Salvador is the first biggest competitor to fall toward broader and global acceptance of bitcoin on par with their traditional currency.
There are three main reasons for businesses to embrace bitcoin in El Salvador:
- Increasing the effectiveness of international remittances: According to the World Bank, remittances account for more than 20% of El Salvador’s GDP, implying that a sizable portion of the population depends on cash transfers from abroad. This runs up against a very complicated reality where the cost of a remittance from the United States to El Salvador may be up to 30–50% of the amount of the transfer, on top of the challenges and expenses associated with the time needed for collecting actual money.
- Result in the reduction of unbanked people: In El Salvador, 70% of the population does not have a bank account. A wider portion of the population may be able to access financial services more easily owing to bitcoin technology.
- Reduce reliance upon the US Dollar: One of the key objectives of Salvadoran law is to accept Bitcoin as a neutral store of value for savings in order to reduce dependency on the US Dollar.
Why do countries register in El Salvador?
Before you advance to register company in El Salvador, it is important for you to understand the economic and political environment of the country. This is to ensure that you can safely conduct your business and achieve the objective.
- Salvadorian government policies have been friendly toward foreign private investment. The country provides tax incentives to attract foreign investment and new commercial and industrial development. These benefits are regulated by the Investment Law, the Industrial and Commercial Free-Zones Law, the International Services Law, Tax Incentives for the Promotion of Renewable Energy Law, and the Law for Reactivation of Exports.
- Foreign direct investment has been playing a vital role in driving El Salvador’s rapid modernization. It has not only helped sustain economic growth but has also brought improvements in social conditions and in overall development indicators.
- According to the World Bank, El Salvador ranks at 91st out of 190 countries in the 2020 Ease of Doing Business report.
- El Salvador is a dollarized economy, having adopted the US dollar in 2001, offering investors confidence with regard to inflation and currency stability. The country has also posted impressive economic growth figures over recent years, with the gross domestic product (GDP) rising almost five-fold since 1992, the year that the bloody civil war in the country ended. Reporting only one year of slight GDP decline in the 27 years since the peace accords, the country’s GDP hit $27.01 billion in 2019.
- El Salvador has 6 trade treaties and 4 agreements with countries such as the United States, Mexico, Taiwan, and regions of Central America and the European Union, which allow it to have access to a potential market of 1 approximately 990 million consumers.
- The World Economic Forum’s report for Global competitiveness 2019 positions El Salvador’s infrastructure among the most competitive in Latin America and the Central American region. Modern infrastructure, airports, and roads allow companies to carry out their logistics operations efficiently, while modern and advanced telecommunications and electricity markets also guarantee access to quality services and supplies at competitive prices.
- The country’s legal framework in terms of easy to register and incorporate a company and attractive tax incentives and regulator framework has long enough acted as the reason for the growth in business opportunities.
- According to the World Economic Forum, El Salvador ranks as the country with the lowest tax rate in the region (ranked number 56 globally).
- The country has also seen a corresponding rise in prosperity, with gross national income (GNI) similarly growing to hit $4,000 per capita in 2019, a figure that pushed the country into the ranks of “upper-middle-income” nations according to standards established by the World Bank.
- The country has had a moderate reduction in the poverty rate, going from 39% in 2007 to 29% in 2017. Similarly, inequality has decreased, with the Gini index going from 0.51 in 2001 to 0.38 in 2017, making it one of the most equitable countries in Latin America.
- El Salvador has Spanish as the official language. However, globalization has opened the door to new international business opportunities, and thus the use of English in many industries is of great importance for companies.
- The Financial Times’s investment journal has accorded El Salvador as one of the most cost-effective locations on the continent under their Cities of Future edition of 2019/2020. Accordingly, foreign investors will be keen to take advantage of low working costs when setting up a business abroad.
- The telecommunications market in El Salvador ensures high-quality services at competitive prices. Users benefit from the existence of various competitors and wide coverage of services.
- The main telecommunications companies are making significant investments that guarantee continuous development of the telecommunications infrastructure and the adoption of the latest technologies.
- El Salvador is rich in water resources, with many rivers and lakes that were once able to sustain the needs of Salvadorans, however, its large population in relation to its small land area, as well as the overexploitation and pollution of water resources, the Salvadoran people are suffering.
Is foreign ownership allowed?
- Yes, up to 100% foreign ownership is allowed
What is the minimum number of shareholders?
- There must be at least (2) shareholders
Are a fiscal address and legal representation required?
- Yes, a fiscal address and legal representation are mandatory to register company in El Salvador.
How much does it cost to start a business in El Salvador?
- El Salvador company incorporation costs ultimately depend on the services you require from Tetra Consultants.
- Our services include El Salvador company set up, corporate bank account opening, accounting, and tax services as well as provision of nominee directors and shareholders.
- Tetra Consultants strives to be as transparent about our fees as possible and all engagement fees will be clearly stated in our appointment letter prior to the start of the engagement.