The Luxembourg government actively encourages foreign investment. There are no formalised legal regimes aimed at foreign investment as such (other than the tax-exempt ‘holding’ companies and collective investment funds ) but on an ad hoc basis the government offers a variety of types of assistance including guarantees, cash, tax incentives, subsidised loans, assistance with development and construction projects etc.
Luxembourg has a wide range of customised investment incentives specifically for new ventures to the principality. This includes the offer of land with favourable conditions at one of the country’s municipal business parks or national industrial parks which are equipped with the infrastructure necessary to support a successful business.
In addition, there are incentives for investment available to Luxembourg and foreign investors alike under the laws of 28th July 1923 and 27th July 1972.
Offshore companies are taxed as follows :
- Holding companies formed under the law of 31st July 1929 are exempt from income taxes (the IRC and the Municipal Business Tax on Profits) and from the Fortune Tax. No tax is levied on the transfer of shares, and there are no taxes due on the liquidation of a 1929 Holding Company. No withholding tax is due on dividends payable to a 1929 Holding Company. (NB 1929 holding companies can no longer be formed.)
- 1929 Holding Companies are subject instead to the capital contribution tax (droit d’apport) of 1% of subscribed capital, either on formation or on a later capital increase, and to the subscription duty (taxe d’abonnement) which amounts to 0.20% of the value of the shares issued by the Holding Company, payable annually in four equal instalments. If shares are quoted, the value is the current market value; if there is no quotation, the paid-in value is used. There are adjustments if dividends are paid out during the year, if profits are written to reserves, or if losses are incurred. Under legislation which came into effect in 2004, in order to satisfy the EU’s ‘harmful tax practices’ initiative:
A 1929 holding company loses its tax-exempt status if at least 5% of its dividends received relate to foreign participations that are not subject to tax at a rate comparable to the Luxembourg corporate income tax rate. An effective tax rate is considered to be comparable if it is at least 11%, equating to approximately one-half of the current corporate income tax rate that applies to regular resident taxpayers and is in line with the tax rate generally applicable to dividends received from participations that do not qualify for a full exemption.
Further, the taxable base needs to be determined under a method similar to the methods used in Luxembourg. An auditor or accountant is required to certify annually that the eligibility requirements have been met. A 1929 holding company that loses its tax-exempt status is subject to the normal corporate income tax regime.
For newly incorporated 1929 holding companies, the amendment applied as from 1 January 2004. For existing 1929 holding companies (i.e. those incorporated under the law applicable before 1 January 2004), the new rules will not apply before they are terminated in 2010.
- Milliardaire Holding Companies are taxed on the basis of various percentage rates applied to interest paid out and dividends distributed by the company, and on the remuneration and fees paid to directors, auditors and liquidators residing less than six months of the year in Luxembourg. The minimum annual tax liability of a Milliardaire Holding Company is much less than an equivalent 1929 Holding Company would pay. (NB Milliardaire holding companies can no longer be formed.)
- Financial Holding Companies are taxed on the same basis as 1929 Holding Companies. (NB Financial Holding Companies can no longer be formed.)
- The replacement for the 1929 holding company, the Family Private Assets Management Company, or SPF is intended to be exempt from corporate income tax, municipal business tax and net-worth tax, and from withholding tax on distributions. These new vehicles are prohibited from commercial activity, and will be limited to private wealth management activity, for example the holding of financial instruments such as shares, bonds and other debt instruments, in addition to cash and other types of bankable asset. If the SPF is used to hold voting rights in other companies, it must ensure that it does not involve itself in the running of those companies, and it is prohibited from providing any kind of service. The SPF’s exemptions can be affected by participation in non-resident, non-listed companies, if those companies are located in a country not subject to a roughly equivalent corporate tax regime.
A subscription tax at a rate of 0.25% is payable on share capital.
- SOPARFI companies, which were created under the law of 24th December 1990, are subject to the normal regime of income taxes etc but do receive the benefit of Double Taxation Treaties, and in many circumstances are exempt from taxation on dividends received from or paid to resident and non-resident companies in which they have a significant participation. The EU Parent-Subsidiary Directive also provides some withholding tax exemptions (improved as from 2004), but the SOPARFI benefits are more extensive. The rules are complex; there are conditions; and there are limitations on the deductibility of expenses.
- The various forms of UCI are all exempt from all Luxembourg taxation, and pay only a small capital duty on start-up, plus an annual tax on net assets which (at the time of writing) varies between 0.01% and 0.06% depending on the type of fund. In June, 2004, the Luxembourg government announced that pension funds would be exempt from the 0.01% ‘subscription’ tax, in order to encourage the transnational pooling of pensions assets.
- In 2004, Luxembourg introduced the SICAR, which may take one of a number of corporate forms, including that of a limited partnership. A fixed capital duty of Euro 1,250 applies to equity capital injections upon incorporation or thereafter. SICARs that are in corporate form are fully taxable and should in principle, unlike 1929 holding companies, be eligible for benefits under Luxembourg’s tax treaties as well as benefits under EC directives. Investment income and realized gains are not considered taxable income, and realized losses and write-downs are not deductible. All other income and expenses are taxable in the normal way. Distributions are exempt from withholding tax, as are redemptions by nonresident investors, regardless of the amount or holding period. SICARs are exempt from wealth tax, and there is an exemption from VAT for management charges. SICARs are excluded from the benefits of fiscal consolidation. Investors seeking tax transparency will opt for a SICAR in the form of a limited partnership (SeCS). An SeCS is not liable to corporate income tax or net wealth tax, and is exempt from the municipal business tax. Income from the partnership and capital gains realized on units by nonresident partners will not be taxed in Luxembourg.
Changes to the parent/subsidiary directive in 2004 have reduced the holding requirement to 20% for 2005-06; to 15% for 2007-08; and to 10% for 2009 onward. Under the EU’s Directive on Interest and Royalties, which also came into effect in 2004, both types of payment will be exempt from withholding tax if they are between associated companies (rules as for the participation exemption).
Luxembourg has actually gone even further, meaning that there is no withholding tax on royalties paid to non-resident companies, and Luxembourg holding companies incorporated according to the terms of the law of 1929 are not subject to such withholding tax either. In line with the directive, the laws came into force retrospectively, with effect from January 1st 2004.
Luxembourg Taxation of Foreign and Non-Resident Employees In Luxembourg the taxation of individuals is based entirely on the concept of residence, regardless of nationality. Generally, individuals are considered to be resident when they maintain a residence in Luxembourg with the intention of remaining other than temporarily. A stay of six months is deemed to be residence. Most types of compensation and benefit paid to employees are taxable; there are no special privileges or exemptions for expatriate workers.Non-residents are liable to pay Luxembourg taxes only on certain types of income arising in Luxembourg or from Luxembourg sources. These types of income are very precisely defined in Luxembourg legislation. Nationals of countries with which Luxembourg has double taxation treaty also need to be aware that the relevant treaty may well affect their tax treatment. The main types of taxable income for non-residents are:
income from trade or business carried on in Luxembourg or arising there;
income from dependent services (ie employment income) performed or arising in Luxembourg;
pension income resulting from former activity in Luxembourg;
investment income arising or paid from Luxembourg;
income from leasing of goods etc situated in Luxembourg or exploited by a Luxembourg entity;
capital gains on the sale of property or substantial participations in Luxembourg companies.
Each of these categories is further defined in considerable detail in the legislation.
Luxembourg eventually signed up to the compromise on the European Savings Tax Directive reached in January, 2003, and has imposing a withholding tax on non-residents’ investment returns, like Switzerland, as from July, 2005 (initially at a rate of 15%, rising to 20% in 2008, and 35% in 2011).
Due to the general nature of the bulletin, it should not be relied upon as legal or tax advice.