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Brussels, 12 September 2007

State aid: Commission opens an investigation into the Polish tonnage tax scheme for international maritime transport

The Commission has today decided to open a formal investigation into certain aspects of a measure by the Polish authorities, whereby entities liable for taxes in Poland and engaged in international maritime transportation could change the tax base for their operating profits. Under the notified measure, companies fulfilling certain criteria could opt for a tonnage tax based on the net tonnage of their fleet, in place of the usual corporation tax levied on the profits derived from their maritime activities. The notified scheme was scheduled to run for ten years (from 2007).

Community guidelines on State aid to maritime transport explicitly foresee the possibility for the Commission to declare compatible State aid to maritime companies that takes the form of tonnage tax. In the present case, the scheme foreseen by the Polish differs in several respects from previous aid of that kind already approved by the Commission. The Commission has opened an investigation in order to assess how these differences might impact on the compatibility, more precisely:

  • the coverage by tonnage tax of natural - or legal - persons that are liable for personal income tax;
  • the possibility for these persons, if it appears that tonnage tax can be a substitute also for personal income tax, to deduct social security contributions from their tax amount and health insurance contributions from their tax base;
  • the requirement imposed on tonnage tax companies to stay within tonnage tax for a minimal period of five years only and not ten years as accepted in other tonnage tax schemes;
  • the unrestricted coverage of vessels for which the company does not cumulatively ensure, on its own account or for the account of a third party, all the three following functions: the commercial management of vessels, their technical management and the management of crews;
  • the possibility to put under tonnage tax tugs and/or dredgers, even where they deliver services constituting maritime transport less than half of their operational time over a fiscal year.

The Commission considers that while the remainder of the scheme appears to comply with Commission guidelines on state aid to maritime transport, it cannot at this stage approve the notified measure in its entirety.

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