Archive for February, 2011
Higher taxes eat into the profits, the lifeblood of a successful business. So, from a business point of view, it's almost a cardinal sin and serious error of judgment not to look at all the options to reduce the tax as much as possible – legally and efficiently. The matter of tax and how to reduce it gets even more interesting when it comes to trading companies involved in cross-border trade i.e. international trading companies**. This is simply because for an international trading company, there are so many and relatively easy to implement tax mitigation options that to ignore them tantamounts to “NOT” a prudent choice in my opinion.
“Saving Tax” doesn't have to be taxing
A very popular and effective tax mitigation option, which International Trading Companies have is to move their tax bases to stable, low-tax jurisdictions. Popularity of low tax jurisdictions amongst the international trading companies is also due to the fact that it is relatively easy to implement highly tax efficient corporate structures for such companies. Let's have a quick look at it….
Trading between two companies involves one company buying the goods/services and the other company (seller) getting the payment in exchange. In ordinary cases (where, No low-tax jurisdiction alternatives have been used), the country which gets to charge the tax (corporate tax) on the profit made by the seller is the home country of the seller (i.e. where the seller is resident). But, by creating an intermediary company in a low-tax jurisdiction, it is possible to get the most of the profits (if not all) taxed in low-tax jurisdiction as opposed to the home country, thereby saving a substantial amount on the taxes otherwise payable in the home country. Such an intermediary company can be used to play a very effective role in any of the areas like sales, distribution or export-import to ensure that the above benefits are gained.
The exporters and importers alike could use such a corporate arrangement to ensure that the profits gained in exportation / importation (on eventual sales of the imported goods) is accumulated in the low-tax jurisdiction through the intermediary company. In fact, the intermediary company could be used to purchase directly from the producer or wholesaler and get the goods delivered to the buyer (customer). Moreover, in most cases, it is not a requirement to have the physical delivery of the goods in / through low-tax jurisdiction to gain the desired taxation benefits.
Are there any particular considerations for such corporate structures?
This corporate structuring has to be set up under certain rules and one of them is the arm's length principle, which is used (in effect) by many countries to ensure that the profits allocated to the low-tax jurisdictions are not unfairly large. The implementation of such rules varies from country to country and that's where certain countries, such as Cyprus (where there is absence of strict transfer pricing rules), are advantageous to operate from. In order to justify and rationalize the allocation of most of the profits to the low tax jurisdiction, specialist tax advice should be sought at the time of company incorporation to ensure that all the nuts and bolts are in place. With the aid of specialist tax advice, such a corporate structuring is certain to be very beneficial for trading companies in saving substantial amounts on tax.
“It is” but “Not all” about Tax saving
While the huge savings in taxes often provide an obvious advantage and incentive to move tax base to low-tax jurisdictions, there are many more strategic reasons and considerations, which also have to form a part of the decision making, such as:
1. Does this new base open a new market for your business, markets such as EU?
2. Does the new base offer your business the strategic locational advantage such as proximity to multiple trade hubs / continents?
3. Does the new base offer politically stable and economically strong (growth possibilities) region?
4. Does the new base have the advanced infrastructure for banking, telecom etc?
5. Will the new base enhance your company's brand and chances of securing more business?
6. Does the new base have favourable tax treaties with other countries?
7. Is the new base viewed with suspicion in the eyes of most of the countries? – Be careful with traditional tax havens / offshore jurisdictions. They may not be advantageous in the longer run.
8. Is the new base welcoming to the foreign companies?
So, what are the jurisdictions which international trading companies can use to attain the above benefits? Well, the answer in EU is unanimously Cyprus.
Cyprus: An “Ideal” location to operate your international trading company from
One of the best jurisdictions, which can be used to effect the above corporate structuring, is Cyprus. This is simply because of the natural tax advantages Cyprus holds in addition to its EU and Eurozone member status. At a high level, following are some of the most important benefits and reasons for international trading companies to consider shifting to / starting in Cyprus as a base for their international operations.
-Corporate tax rate of 10% (Cyprus is the “Lowest-Tax” European Union jurisdiction)
-EU and Eurozone member (Respectable EU member state, not a traditional Tax Haven or Offshore Jurisdiction. This is very important consideration for long-term viability of the business)
-Cyprus is recognized as one of the best, investor-friendly tax system in European Union (EU)
-Tax Exemptions (No Tax) on:
Profits from the sale of securities (shares, bonds, debentures etc)
Liquidation of the Cypriot Company
Profits (Capital Gains) on Permanent Establishment
- No Withholding taxes on payments of dividends, interest and royalties
- No debt-equity and thin capitalization rules
-Access to EU directives which helps further on taxation planning for trading with EU countries
-No Capital Gains Tax except for the real estate situated in Cyprus
-Absence of no strict Transfer pricing rules
-Vast network of Double Tax Treaties
-Interest deduction for borrowing costs provided
-Low Personal tax rate
-Unilateral tax-relief for foreign tax suffered is granted to all Cypriot companies
-Tax losses can be carried forward indefinitely