Gibraltar is a peninsula with an area of approximately 7 square kilometres linking it to Spain via an isthmus of about half a kilometre long. It faces the northern coast of Africa which lies some 16 kilometres to the south across the straits and dominates the Western entrance to the Mediterranean. It is one of the world's famous landmarks rising to approximately 425 metres high. The city of Gibraltar is located on the sloping west side of the rock and overlooks the Bay of Gibraltar.
Gibraltar has 30,000 inhabitants, of whom 26,000 are native Gibraltarians, the balance being made up mainly of British expatriates with an additional population of Morroccan, Spanish and other EU nationalities.
Gibraltar has a diverse history with Romans, Moors, Spanish and British safeguarding and taking custody of the Rock. In 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession Gibraltar became a British possession. Its cession to Britain in perpetuity was confirmed by the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
Gibraltar is self-governing with regards to defined domestic matters with its own elected government. It enacts laws independently of the United Kingdom and maintains an independent tax status. The United Kingdom is responsible for Gibraltar’s defense, foreign policy and internal security, and appoints the Governor who is a representative of the Crown in Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a member of the European Union (EU) by virtue of Article 227, paragraph 4 of the Treaty of Rome, which states that the provisions of the Treaty "apply to the European territories for whose external relations a member state is responsible." Gibraltar is therefore treated as part of the member state of the United Kingdom. At the time of the United Kingdom joining the EU, Gibraltar was granted three specific derogations from complying with the EU regulations on common customs tariff, common agricultural policy and harmonisation of turnover taxes (VAT). These derogations, in particular with regard to customs tariffs and VAT, enable Gibraltar to offer taxation advantages in many areas.
Gibraltar’s main industries are banking and finance, tourism, construction, fund management, gaming, shipping and ship repair. Gibraltar operates as a free port for goods in transit and only applies duty at a standard rate of 12% on goods intended for consumption in the domestic market. Gibraltar has special import tariff status within the EU. This gives reduced duty rates on selected items.
Gibraltar has no capital gains tax, VAT, inheritance tax or wealth tax. Gibraltar has no exchange controls and unrestricted currency facilities. Individuals and companies may hold and operate bank accounts in any currency and may purchase real and personal property anywhere in the world.
Gibraltar has its own legal system, which is based on English Common and Statute Law, with variations introduced by local statutes termed "Acts". There is a Supreme Court and a Court of Appeal. The local legal profession comprises mostly UK trained barristers and solicitors.
Accounting and auditing standards are based on UK and/or IFRS standards, amended where necessary to comply with Gibraltar company law. The local accounting profession comprises mostly of UK trained Chartered or Certified Accountants represented by the Gibraltar Society of Chartered and Certified Accountancy Bodies. Statutory Auditors must be approved by and registered with the Auditors Registration Board, this board consisting of the Financial Services Commissioner and his appointees.
Financial regulation was established in 1989 by the creation of the Financial Services Commission to provide strong investor protection in relation to the Financial Services Sector. Due to the investor protection legislation enforced by the Financial Service Commission Gibraltar enjoys a reputation of being one of the best-regulated finance centres anywhere.
Gibraltar has an excellent digital and fibre-optic telecommunications system along with a modern postal service. There are regular daily scheduled air services to and from the United Kingdom. Direct flights to other destinations are available from Malaga airport, less than two hours drive from Gibraltar. Many international shipping lines carrying passengers and freight, call at Gibraltar.