During the Budget speech for 2019 presented on 22 October 2018, it was announced that Malta, like other EU Member States, will be implementing the EU Directive on Anti-Tax Avoidance, more commonly known as ATAD1.
Although no detailed provisions are available yet, the following is a brief summary of the expected changes which will be introduced with effect from 1 January 2019 as a result of ATAD1.
When interest and similar borrowing costs of a company exceed interest receivable, the maximum tax deduction that can be claimed in a tax period in respect of the excess costs will be 30% of EBITDA (that is, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation). Unutilised costs may be carried forward (subject to any further limitations that may be applicable under the normal provisions of the Income Tax Act). The new restrictions will not apply in cases where the exceeding borrowing costs do not exceed €3,000,000 (three million Euros).
In line with the EU Directive, the regulations envisage the possibility of this limitation being calculated and applied at group level.
The limitation will not apply to financial undertakings. Nor will it apply to costs on loans used to fund long-term public infrastructure EU projects or loans concluded before 17 June 2016.
A change of residence of a company, or the movement of its assets or of its business to another territory will be treated as a taxable exit event. In such a case, the company will become subject to tax in the same manner as if it has disposed of its assets. The accrued gains will be calculated by reference to the market value of the asset at the time of the exit. Where the country of the new residence of the taxpayer or of the new location of the assets is another EU Member State, the payment of the tax can be deferred.
No exit tax will be chargeable in the case of a temporary movement of assets that is linked to certain financial transactions as long as the assets are returned within 12 (twelve) months.
Controlled Foreign Company (CFC) Rules
An entity will be considered a CFC where it is subject to more than 50% (fifty per cent) control by a parent company that is tax resident in Malta and its associated enterprises and the tax paid on its profits is less than half the tax that would have been paid had the income been subject to tax in Malta.
The measure will not apply:
- To a CFC with accounting profits of no more than €750,000 (seven hundred and fifty thousand Euros), and non-trading income of no more than €75,000 (seventy-five thousand Euros); or
- To a CFC whose accounting profits amount to no more than 10% (ten per cent) of its operating costs for the tax period.
The parent company will be entitled to double taxation relief for the tax paid by the CFC on the included income. The regulations should also provide for the avoidance of double taxation that could arise if the CFC subsequently distributes its profits or the parent company disposes of its interest in the CFC.
General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR)
The Income Tax Act already contains a general anti-abuse provision (article 51) that empowers the Commissioner for Revenue to ignore tax avoidance schemes. The new regulations will add to this rule by applying the definition of tax avoidance schemes as used in the Directive. The measure will accordingly apply to arrangements which are not genuine, meaning that they are not put into place for valid commercial reasons that reflect economic reality, and which have been put in place with a main purpose of obtaining a tax advantage that defeats the object or purpose of tax law.
EU Dispute Resolution Mechanism (DRM)
The EU Directive on ERM will be implemented by the end of June 2019 and it will be instrumental in providing Maltese taxpayers with access to a new dispute resolution framework in relation to disputes with other EU tax authorities that may come about given the changes that are being implemented in the international tax arena.
EU Mandatory Disclosure Directive (DAC 6)
Regulations for the transposition of DAC 6 are being prepared and will meet the implementation deadlines set out in the Directive but no further details are available yet.
ATAD 2 effective as of 1 January 2020 and 1 January 2022
Apart from ATAD1, Malta will also have to implement the provisions of ATAD2 although these will take place on 1 January 2020 and 1 January 2022.
ATAD 2 will replace the original anti-hybrid provisions of ATAD 1 by extending them to include mismatches involving third countries and expanding the definition of hybrid mismatches to include hybrid permanent establishment mismatches, hybrid transfers, imported mismatches, reverse hybrid mismatches and dual resident mismatches. It is still premature to make any further comments on ATAD2.
Patent Box Regime
Malta will introduce a new patent box regime that complies with the EU Code of Conduct (Business Taxation) and the OECD proposals on preferential intellectual property regimes (the so-called Modified Nexus approach). Once again, no further details are available at this stage.
ATAD will introduce new concepts into the Maltese tax legislation such as exit taxes and CFC rules. However, the changes should not have a dramatic effect to the tax system especially the principles of the full imputation system and the tax refunds which shareholders may claim upon a distribution of certain taxed profits. We expect no changes to the participation exemption regime and we’ll have to see whether the step-up provisions already contained in our tax legislation will be affected. If not, the step-up provisions and the participation exemption should continue to provide interesting opportunities.
It will be interesting to see how the interest limitation provisions will ‘interact’ with the newly introduced rules on Notional Interest Deduction which had an extremely positive effect on a number of Maltese companies
Very limited amendments are expected for the implementation of GAAR as required by the Directive since it is very similar to that already included in the Maltese Income Tax Act.