Cyprus

At a glance

 

Corporate Income Tax Rate 10%
Tax rate applied on capital gains

- No capital gains tax on disposal of financial securities;
- Capital gains of 20% only applicable on disposal of immovable property in Cyprus or shares of a company that owns immovable property in Cyprus.

Tax rate applied on branch profits 10%
   
Other taxes (e.g. local or state tax) levied on corporate profits? No
   
Withholding taxes (standard rates)  
on dividends paid 0% to all except
20% to resident individuals
on interest paid 0%
on royalties paid 0%
   
Loss carry back period Not Applicable
Loss carry forward period Indefinite
Group relief Losses for current year can be surrended to another group company.
Tax credit Any tax suffered abroad on income subject to income tax will be credited against any income tax payable.
   
VAT Standard Rate - 17%
Reduced Rate 1 - 8%
Reduced Rate 2 - 5%

Introduction

Cyprus implemented a series of important changes to its fiscal regime to harmonise its tax legislation with the EU Directives and the EU Code of conduct of business. The resulting fiscal regime offers a range of very attractive tax advantages for structuring business through Cyprus, including the lowest corporate tax rate in the European Union. The low tax rate coupled with a long list of double tax treaties, an enviable time zone location and a mature legal, accounting and banking infrastructure, places Cyprus high on the list of preferred jurisdictions for international tax planners. The fiscal regime offers the following benefits: • Introduction of the concept of tax resident and non-resident companies • Taxation of worldwide income for tax residents and Cyprus-sourced income for non-residents • Uniform corporate tax rate of 10% • Tax-exempt business profits of non-resident companies • Tax-exempt gains on the trading and disposal of securities • Tax-exempt dividend income (subject to applicable criteria) • Tax-neutral group reorganisations • Tax-relief for group losses • Full adoption of the EU parent-subsidiary directive • Full adoption of the EU mergers directive • Full adoption of the EU directive on mutual assistance and cooperation • Full adoption of the EU royalty and interest directive The Cyprus holding company A Cyprus company can act as the holding company for effectively consolidating the ownership of a number of operating subsidiaries. Additionally, there are cases where a Cyprus company can act as an intermediate holding company to assist in the repatriation of dividends in a tax-efficient manner. (a) Dividends paid by the operating subsidiary EU operating subsidiary Dividends will be received in Cyprus with no withholding tax as per the provisions of the EU Parent-Subsidiary Directive. Dividends will be paid to the Cyprus holding company net of the withholding tax. The level of the withholding tax is subject to the double tax treaty between Cyprus and the country of residence of the subsidiary. For example, assume that the operating subsidiary is resident in Russia. The withholding tax on dividends from Russia to a country like the UK is 10%, Japan is 15% and to Cyprus is 5%. Hence a British or Japanese investor can set up an intermediary Cyprus holding company, thereby reducing the tax burden on the distributed dividends to 5%. Similarly, direct investment into an EU country by a non-EU investor may lead to a withholding tax imposed on the dividend. The use of Cyprus as an intermediary eliminates the burden of this withholding tax. (b) Dividend received by the Cyprus holding company. Dividend income is exempt from income tax in the books of the Cyprus holding company. The exemption does not apply if: (i) Directly or indirectly more than 50% of the activities of the paying company result in investment income, and (ii) The paying company is subject to tax at a rate which is significantly* lower than the Cyprus corporate rate. * Significantly lower means 50% of the Cyprus tax rate i.e. 5% (c) Dividend paid to the non-resident shareholder There is no withholding tax on dividend paid by the Cyprus company to the non-resident shareholder, regardless of whether this shareholder is a company or an individual either based in the EU or outside the EU. (d) Disposal of the operating subsidiary The gains arising from the disposal of the shares of the operating subsidiary are not subject to any tax in Cyprus, provided that the operating subsidiary does not own any immovable property in Cyprus. When structuring a multinational group, the borrowing capacity of the group can be utilised to achieve an overall tax reduction. This can be achieved by structuring the group in such a way so that the tax-exempt dividend is received in the hands of the ultimate shareholder or the holding company while at the level of the subsidiary the taxable profits are reduced by deductible interest payments. Royalty income arises from the license fees or commissions paid for the use of intellectual property such as patents, trademarks and copyrights. A Cyprus royalty company can be used to receive the income created from this intellectual property in the most tax efficient manner. The International Collective Investment Schemes law 1999 provides the legal framework for the registration and regulation of operations and supervision of ICIS. There are four main entities that are addressed by the law in ICIS law in Cyprus: • Fixed Capital Companies • Variable Capital Companies • Unit Trusts • Limited Partnerships ICIS are approved and registered by the Central Bank of Cyprus. ICIS are subject to taxation in accordance with the provisions of the tax laws outlined above. The key tax benefits of an ICIS are the following: • Exemption from tax on foreign dividends • Exemption from tax on profits from the sale of securities • No withholding tax on income repatriated by the ICIS The concept of the Cyprus international trust is introduced by the International Trust law 1992, and the establishment and management of a trust in Cyprus is governed by the Trust Law 1955, which is similar to the English Trustee Act of 1925. The traditional benefits offered by a trust structure, together with the possibilities of using an international trust in combination with a Cyprus company provide a whole new range of tax advantages: • Cyprus international trusts are exempt from tax on income, capital or distributions. • The income of a Cyprus international trust can include business profits, dividends, interest and royalties. • A Cyprus international trust can be used to receive dividend income in a structure, which does not qualify for the tax exemption under the SCDT Law, thus avoiding the 20% tax charge. • Cyprus trustees of a Cyprus international trust qualify for relief under the Cyprus network of double tax treaties. Cyprus has a long solid experience in the provision of ship management services and has one of the largest vessel registers in the EU. Cyprus ship management companies have the flexibility to be taxed under one of the following two options: Income Tax law Tax at 4.25% on their net earnings, or Merchant Shipping law Tax at 25% of the tonnage tax rates of all the vessels under management (i.e. Cyprus and foreign flag vessels). Special exemptions apply for Cyprus registered vessels whereby their technical and crew management is entirely controlled by a Cypriot ship management company. There is no withholding tax on dividends paid by the ship management company, nor is there taxability on dividend income in the hands of the shareholders. Conclusion: In the arena of global competition companies find it increasingly difficult to create and sustain the growth rate required by their shareholders. International tax planning is becoming one of the most effective strategies to increase returns to shareholders. Cyprus focused on harmonizing its tax laws to the requirements of the EU and the OECD, whilst maintaining its attractiveness to international tax planners. The result of these changes is a sophisticated low tax jurisdiction that features highly in the international tax planning structures currently developed. Cyprus is rapidly becoming the jurisdiction of choice of international businessmen, multinational corporations and their trusted tax advisors.

Publications

CTA Members in Cyprus

Andreas Athinodorou Andreas Athinodorou
Telephone: +357 22 418814 E-Mail: andreas.athinodorou@corptax.org
Marina Zevedeou Marina Zevedeou
Telephone: +357 22 418814 E-Mail: marina.zevedeou@corptax.org

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