Sark - Key Characteristics
Geographical and Historical
The Island of Sark is the fourth largest of the Channel Islands, which are situated in the English Channel, close to the French coast of Normandy. The Islands are renowned for their temperate climate and relaxed high quality standard of living. They are an attractive location for many holidaymakers and an appealing destination for many affluent individuals wishing to settle there permanently.
The history of Sark relates to both Normandy and to England, due to the Channel Islands’ ownership by the Duke of Normandy, who became King of England in 1066.
Sark was the last feudal state in Europe, and the Island remains a personal possession of the Queen. The Island is governed by a 28 member parliament known as Chief Pleas, made up of elected deputies of the people. This history together with a continued ban on the use of cars and with virtually no crime, has helped to protect and preserve the unique economic position of Sark and, whilst international laws and regulations are slowly being introduced on the Island, the six hundred residents are ensuring that these are carefully applied to preserve Sark’s individual characteristics.
Sark law is based on the Norman system, overlaid with English procedures and precedents. Sark has its own legislature and courts, the British government having responsibility to advise the Queen concerning Island affairs pertaining to “good government”. The Island has complete freedom in matters of domestic and fiscal law which has enabled the development of a simple and stable legislative framework. Although having certain idiosyncrasies in relation to domestic issues, the law relating to commercial and international issues, has followed Guernsey law and there is normally a right of appeal from the Sark courts to the Guernsey courts.
The Channel Islands, including Sark, are not actually part of the European Union. Arrangements resulting from negotiations at the time of the United Kingdom’s entry into the EU have the important effect of retaining fiscal independence for Sark. However, there are provisions for the movement of goods in trade between the Island and the EU. Other community rules do not apply, and there is no requirement for Sark to adopt EU social, fiscal, commercial or economic policies.
Sark’s fiscal and economic policy has always been one of minimal taxation and limited public services. As such, there is no income tax or corporation tax, the main government revenues being a poll tax on arrivals by sea transport and duty on alcohol and tobacco. Direct taxes which count for less than half the Island’s income are very low and based upon property and personal residence. There are no forms of inheritance, value added, sales or withholding taxes.
Currency and Exchange Control
Sark is within the Bailiwick of Guernsey which issues its own currency, which is accepted throughout the Channel Islands. This is tied to UK Sterling at par. Both residents and non-residents may have foreign currency bank accounts within the Bailiwick and invest and transfer assets anywhere in the world.
There are no exchange controls.