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VAT Grouping

Following the announcement made by the Minister of Finance during the budget speech in October 2015, a legal notice (L.N. 162 of 2018) was finally published to introduce VAT Grouping. However, this new concept is not being made available to all groups which may exist for other purposes, such as the Income Tax Act.

 

VAT Grouping is quite common in other EU Member States however, it appears that Malta is reluctant to introduce this concept across the board and therefore the new regulations are only applicable to groups wherein at least one member is a licensed or regulated entity within the gaming sector or the financial services industry such as banks, financial institutions, insurance, investment services, securitisation etc, the services of which are usually exempt without credit.

 

To form a VAT Group, the following conditions must be satisfied:

 

  • All members of the VAT Group are legal persons established in Malta;
  • At least one of the members of the VAT Group is a taxable person licenced or regulated under any of the following Acts:
    • The Banking Act;
    • The Financial Institutions Act;
    • The Gaming Act;
    • The Insurance Business Act;
    • The Insurance Intermediaries Act;
    • The Investment Services Act;
    • The Lotteries and Other Games Act;
    • The Retirement Pensions Act;
    • The Securitisation Act.
  • Members of the VAT Group are financially, organisationally and economically linked to each other.  A financial link exists when two or more entities are directly or indirectly held by at least 90% by the same person or persons.   The financial link may be established on the basis of voting rights, profit entitlement or access to winding up distributions.  An organisational link exists when two or more entities share their management structure whilst an economic link exists when entities are linked to each other by virtue of the industry they operate in, or provide services which are interdependent or complementary to each other.  An economic link also exists when group members carry out activities which are wholly or substantially carried out for the benefit of the other Group Members.
  • All Members of the VAT Group are up to date with their VAT filing requirements and VAT payments.

 

Members of a VAT Group may only form part of one VAT Group.  Approval must be obtained from the VAT Department and such approval may be done by any member.  An application may also be made by a person to join an existing VAT Group.

 

Application for the registration of a VAT Group as well as the addition of new members must be made electronically however, the details are not yet available.

 

Members within a VAT Group must nominate a Group Reporting Entity. Such entity is responsible of fulfilling all the obligations arising under the regulations.   Once an entity forms part of the VAT Group, any supply (including supplies and/ or Intra-community acquisitions as well as any importation made under Article 4 of the VAT Act) made by the members are deemed to have been supplied made by the Group Reporting Entity and therefore reported as such.  The VAT status of members within the group (whether taxable persons or non-taxable legal persons) becomes irrelevant as the VAT Group itself is regarded as a taxable person.

 

Approved VAT Groups are notified by the VAT Department with the date from when the VAT Group is deemed to have been formed. The Group Reporting Entity and the other members of the group are also approved by the VAT Department.  The VAT Group will also have a separate Group VAT number.

 

The VAT registration number of the members of a VAT Group is cancelled once a member becomes an approved member of a VAT Group.  This is done because all the transactions entered into by any of the VAT Group Members is deemed to be made by the Group Reporting Entity.   The regulations contain provisions to regulate the cancellation of the VAT number of individual VAT Group Members where the assets of the economic activity include capital goods.

 

Members within the same VAT Group have joint and several liability for the payment of any tax as well as any administrative penalties and interest due.    Such liability will continue to apply even after a Member leaves the VAT group if such payments arose during the period when such Member was still part of the VAT Group.

 

The Group Reporting Entity is required to inform the Commissioner for Revenue should any of its members cease or will cease to satisfy the conditions to form part of the VAT Group.  Such notification should be made within 15 days from the changes in circumstances.

 

The VAT Group may also be dissolved after the lapse of 24 months from its registration.  The members of a ‘former’ VAT Group may reconstitute the VAT Group only after the lapse of 24 months from the cancellation of such VAT Group.

 

Supplies between members of a VAT Group

 

Any supplies made between VAT Group Members are disregarded for VAT purposes.   The regulations include an anti-abuse provision whereby the Commissioner for Revenue is granted the necessary powers to bring to tax supplies made within the VAT Group should the transactions be deemed as being tax avoidance or tax evasion.

 

The ‘exemption’ for intra-group supplies does not apply when the supply of services is made by or to an establishment situated outside Malta (including for example a branch or a permanent establishment of a Maltese company which forms part of a Maltese VAT Group), if that establishment forms part of a foreign EU VAT Group.

 

Through the introduction of VAT Grouping provisions, separate legal entities may now operate as a single taxable person thus reducing the administrative burden on the various group companies as well as reducing cash flow issues associated with the payment and recovery of VAT.  It is a pity that the group definition for VAT grouping is very restrictive and not all groups may benefit from such provisions.

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VAT thresholds

Persons eligible for registration under Article 11 of the VAT Act has been widened by means of Legal Notice 163 of 2018 whereby the provisions of Council Implementation Decision (EU) 2018/279 of the 20th February 2018 have been implemented.

 

Article 11 exempts taxable persons carrying on a small undertaking from charging VAT thus reducing the VAT compliance and costs associated with normal registration under Article 10.   However, Persons registered under Article 11 may not claim any input tax incurred.

 

By way of an EU derogation, taxable persons whose economic activity consists principally of supplies of services with high value added, thus, with relatively low-cost base, may register under Article 11 if their annual turnover does not exceed €20,000.  The entry and exit threshold in Schedule 6 has been updated to reflect the revised entry and exit threshold (now revised to €17,000) for such undertakings.

 

Such derogation is applicable from 1 July 2018 until 31 December 2020.

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Notional Interest Deduction Rules 2018

Malta has very recently introduced the concept of a notional interest deduction (NID).  The recently published rules come into effect from year of assessment 2018 (basis year 2017) and they are aimed at mitigating the differences in the tax treatment between equity and debt financing.  Before the introduction of these rules, debt financed entities could claim a tax deduction equivalent to the interest however no similar deduction was available for equity financed companies.  These new rules entitle companies with an option to claim a tax deduction equivalent to the notional interest calculated on its equity thus making equity financing on the same level playing field as debt financing for taxation purposes.

Salient features of these rules:

  • NID is optional and may only be claimed if all shareholders of an undertaking approve the claim for such a deduction.
  • These rules are applicable to Malta registered companies, permanent establishments situated in Malta as well as partnerships.
  • NID is determined by multiplying the reference rate by the invested risk capital.  The reference rate is the risk-free rate set by reference to the current yield to maturity on the Malta Government Stocks with a remaining term of approximately 20 years plus a premium of 5%, and the invested risk capital of the undertaking is the share capital, share premium, positive retained earnings, non-interest bearing loans an any contributions made by the shareholder/s.  Any capital directly employed in the production of income which is exempt from tax does not fall part of the invested risk capital.
  • NID is limited to 90% of chargeable income.  Any excess above the capped amount may be carried forward for deduction in future years.
  • When an undertaking claims NID, the shareholder / partner is deemed to have received income equal to the NID and the provisions relating to the taxation of interest income shall apply with the option to apply NID against the deemed interest brought to charge.
  • An amount equal to 110% of the profits relieved from tax through the NID shall be allocated to the undertaking’s final tax account.  The amount allocated to the final tax account is limited to the total profits of the undertaking an any such excess shall be ignored for allocation of tax profits.

Undertakings are advised to seek for professional tax advice in determining whether these rules would result in the most optimal scenario for the said undertaking and shareholders / partners.

 

Update to the NID news item

The NID must be calculated before taking into account any adjustments for the Flat Rate Foreign Tax Credit (FRFTC).  This clarification was embedded in Act VII of 2018 and is applicable from year of assessment 2018.

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Budget Newsletter 2018

On 9 October 2017, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Professor Edward Scicluna, presented the Budget for 2018. As has become customary, the introductory part of the budget speech was dedicated to the salient features of the Maltese economy, highlighting the achievements for 2016 and those underway for 2017 and the projections for the current year and 2018.

 

The Budget for 2018 contains the introduction of no new taxes for 2018, whilst aiming to assist vulnerable people in the Maltese society, especially due to the increase in the rent of immovable property which has increased substantially in the last few years.

 

The budget lacks incentives aimed at increasing investments.  The budget only targets new employments in Gozo and small enterprises who may avail themselves from better tax credits under the MicroInvest scheme.

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Malta signs a tax treaty with Mauritius

On 15 October 2014 Malta signed a tax treaty with Mauritius.  The treaty was published by means of legal notice 409 of 2014.

The tax treaty is modelled on the OECD model convention.  However, it is interesting to note that no withholding tax is levied on dividends, interest and royalties and therefore the source state will not tax dividend income, interest or royalties and the residence state will have exclusive jurisdiction to tax such income.  The treaty provides that the source state will have taxing rights with respect to capital gains on immovable property and movable property.

The tax treaty also contains ‘standard articles’ with respect to the elimination of double taxation (under the credit method), mutual agreement procedure, exchange of information and a rather detailed article with respect to assistance in the collection of taxes.

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Malta signs a tax treaty with Moldova

Malta and Moldova signed a double taxation agreement.  The agreement was signed on 10 April 2014 between Foreign Minister George Vella and his Moldovian counterpart Natalia Gherman.

Malta and Moldova also signed a joint declaration on European Integration.  Malta promises to offer Moldova its assistance in many areas including tourism, education, and ICT based on its own experience of recent European integration.

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Malta signs FATCA

Malta signed intergovernmental agreements with the US Treasury Department to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).  Malta signed the Model 1A agreements.  Under these agreements, Foreign Financial Institutions (FFIs) will report the information required under FATCA about US accounts to their home governments, which in turn will report the information to the IRS.  These agreements are reciprocal, meaning that the United States will also provide similar tax information to these governments regarding individuals and entities from their jurisdictions with accounts in the United States.

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Malta signs a tax treaty with Macau

Malta and Macau agreed to work together to prevent tax evasion and tax avoidance.  Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen and the Maltese ambassador to China, Joseph Cassar, signed a tax treaty in Beijing on May 30.

All the legal arrangements between both jurisdictions have been completed and the treaty is likely to come into force in January 2014.

The treaty allows the authorities in Macau and Malta access to other’s data on the financial position and income of their citizens that owe tax, and may reveal undeclared assets and earnings.  Such data will include information relevant “to the determination, assessment and collection of taxes, the recovery and enforcement of tax claims, or the investigation or prosecution of tax matters”, the treaty says.  The authorities may share information held by banks or other financial institutions.  They may share information about the direct or indirect ownership of companies, trusts and foundations, and about partnerships.

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