Bulgarian companies are required to withhold tax on payments of dividends and liquidation proceeds; interest (including that incurred under finance lease agreements and on bank deposits); royalties; fees for technical services; payments for the use of properties; payments made under operating leasing, franchising, and factoring agreements; and management fees payable to non-residents.
Capital gains from the transfer of shares in a Bulgarian company or immovable property located in Bulgaria realised by a non-resident are also subject to domestic WHT; however, the tax is payable by the non-resident. Capital gains from securities are not subject to WHT if they result from shares in listed companies and tradable rights in such shares on a regulated securities market in the EU/EEA (the exemption may extend to third country markets eligible as equivalent markets under the law). Capital gains from disposal of governmental bonds are also exempt from WHT realised on a regulated market in the EU/EEA.
Dividends and liquidation proceeds are also taxed where payments are made to resident individuals and non-profit organisations (for details on dividend payments between domestic companies, see Dividend income in the Income determination section).
Interest and royalties payable to EU-based associated companies may be subject to full WHT exemption in Bulgaria. Associated company criteria are identical to those in the EU Interest and Royalty Directive and require a holding of at least 25% of the capital for at least two years. The WHT exemption on income from interests and royalties can be applied before the expiration of the two-year participation period, provided that the participation in the capital does not fall below the required minimum before the end of this period (i.e. the direct participation is kept for at least two years).
Subject to 10% WHT would be any accruals for penalties or damages payments to entities in low-tax jurisdictions, except for insurance compensations. The tax legislation introduces a list of low-tax / uncooperative jurisdictions. These are certain off-shore territories that are explicitly listed, as well as countries with which Bulgaria has not signed a DTT and in which the applicable corporate tax rates are more than 60% lower than the applicable rate in Bulgaria.
Certain types of income (other than dividends) accrued by a PE of a foreign person to other parts of its enterprise located outside the country are subject to WHT (except for that mentioned in the Branch income section).
When a dividend is accrued to a non-resident company or an individual (both resident and foreign), it is subject to WHT at a rate of 5%, unless the rate is reduced by an applicable DTT. No differentiation is made between portfolio and substantial holdings for purposes of this WHT on dividends.
Dividends distributed by a Bulgarian resident company to an entity that is a tax resident in an EU/EEA member state are not subject to Bulgarian WHT (except for cases of hidden profit distribution).
A 10% rate applies to interest (including interest from bank deposits) payable to a non-resident, unless the rate is reduced by an applicable DTT.
Interest on borrowings by the government or the Bulgarian National Bank from international financial institutions is not taxable if the respective loan agreements contain relevant exemption arrangements (international treaties override domestic legislation).
Interest paid to an associated EU-based related company is subject to WHT exemption (requiring at least 25% holding for at least two years, see above for a description of relief from the two-year participation period).
An exemption from WHT is provided for income from interests on bonds and other debt securities emitted by a local tax resident and admitted to a regulated stock exchange in an EU/EEA member state.
An exemption from WHT is also provided for income from interests on loans extended by a tax resident of an EU/EEA member state, issuer of bonds or other debt securities, provided that the bonds/debt securities are issued for the purposes of extending a loan to a local legal entity and are admitted to a regulated stock exchange in an EU/EEA member state.
Royalties payable to foreign persons are taxed at a rate of 10% at source, unless the rate is reduced by an applicable DTT.
Royalty payments to an associated EU-based related company are exempt from WHT (requiring at least 25% holding for at least two years, see above for a description of relief from the two-year participation period).
Capital gains and technical services
Capital gains generated by foreign tax residents out of certain types of qualifying Bulgarian-source disposals are subject to 10% WHT, unless the rate is reduced by an applicable DTT.
Technical service fees payable to foreign tax residents are subject to 10% WHT, unless the rate is reduced by an applicable DTT. As per the domestic legislation, technical services include installation and assembly of tangible assets as well as consultancy services and marketing research.
Application of DTT relief
Bulgaria has ratified the OECD MLI.
Applying DTT relief is generally possible only after completing an advance clearance procedure with the Bulgarian tax authorities. Companies have to evidence that they satisfy the requirements for applying the DTT (e.g. tax residence, beneficial ownership, existence of contractual relationship, actual accrual/payment of the income). The procedure usually takes 60 days to complete.
The above procedure has to be followed only if the annual income payable by a Bulgarian resident exceeds BGN 500,000. In all other cases, DTT relief can be applied directly, through submitting a tax residence certificate and a beneficial ownership declaration with the payer of the income.
Beneficial ownership is explicitly defined in Bulgarian legislation. A company is considered a beneficial owner of the income if it has the right to dispose of the income, has discretion over its use, bears the whole or a significant part of the risk of the activity from which the income is realised, and does not qualify as a conduit company.
A conduit company is a company that is controlled by persons who would not benefit from the same type and amount exemption if the income was realised directly by them, does not carry out any economic activity except for owning and/or administering the rights or the assets from which the income was realised, and does not own assets, capital, or personnel relevant to its economic activity or does not control the use of the rights or assets from which the income was realised.
The conduit company restriction does not apply to companies that have more than a half of their voting shares traded on a registered stock exchange.
The following is a summary of the main parameters of the Bulgarian DTTs as of 1 January 2021:
|Albania (3, 6, 9, 28)||5/15||0/10||10||0/10|
|Armenia (1, 2, 6, 28, 36)||5/10||0/5/10||5/10||0/10|
|Austria (6, 10, 27, 35)||0/5||0/5||5||0/10|
|Azerbaijan (6, 28, 34)||8||7||5/10||0|
|Belgium (6, 10, 27)||10||0/10||5||0|
|Canada (6, 9, 16, 28, 42)||10/15||0/10||0/10||0/10|
|China (2, 6, 9, 28)||10||0/10||7/10||0/10|
|Cyprus (3, 6, 26, 27)||5/10||0/7||10||0/10|
|Czech Republic (11, 27)||10||0/10||10||0|
|Denmark (3, 27)||5/15||0||0||0|
|Estonia (9, 16, 27)||0/5||5||5||0/10|
|Finland (4, 9, 12, 27)||10||0||0/5||0/10|
|France (5, 27)||5/15||0||5||0|
|Germany (11, 16, 26, 27, 36, 39)||5/15||0/5||5||0/10|
|Hungary (6, 27)||10||0/10||10||0|
|Iran (6, 9, 28)||7.5||0/5||5||0/10|
|Ireland (3, 6, 9, 27, 28)||5/10||0/5||10||0/10|
|Israel (18, 19, 20, 21)||10/7.5 to 12.5||0/5/10||7.5 to 12.5||7.5 to 12.5|
|Japan (3, 6)||10/15||0/10||10||10|
|Jordan (6, 28)||10||0/10||10||0|
|Kazakhstan (8, 9, 28)||10||0/10||10||0/10|
|Kuwait (3, 22)||0/5||0/5||10||0|
|Latvia (3, 9, 24, 25, 27, 28)||5/10||0/5||5/7||0/10|
|Lithuania (16, 27, 28, 29)||0/10||0/10||10||0/10|
|Luxembourg (3, 10, 27)||5/15||0/10||5||0|
|Macedonia (3, 6)||5/15||0/10||10||0|
|Malta (12, 17, 27)||0/30||0||10||0|
|Moldova (3, 6, 9, 28)||5/15||0/10||10||0/10|
|Morocco (5, 9, 28)||7/10||10||10||0/10|
|The Netherlands (3, 7, 9, 27, 44)||0/15||0/5||5||0/10|
|North Korea (6)||10||0/10||10||0|
|Norway (16, 22, 28, 41)||0/5/15||0/5||5||0/10|
|Poland (6, 27)||10||0/10||5||0|
|Portugal (3, 6, 27)||10/15||0/10||10||0|
|Qatar (6, 36)||0||0/3||5||0|
|Romania (6, 27)||5||0/5||5||0|
|Russian Federation (6)||15||0/15||15||0|
|Singapore (6, 22)||0/5||0/5||5||0|
|Slovak Republic (6, 27)||10||0/10||10||0|
|Slovenia (3, 23, 27, 28)||5/10||0/5||5/10||0/10|
|South Africa (3, 6, 23, 24)||5/15||0/5||5/10||0/10|
|South Korea (5, 6)||5/10||0/10||5||0|
|Spain (3, 27)||5/15||0||0||0|
|Sweden (9, 27, 28)||10||0||5||0/10|
|Switzerland (10, 13, 37, 38)||0/10||0/5||0/5||0|
|Thailand (6, 14, 15)||10||0/10/15||5/15||10|
|Turkey (3, 6, 9)||10/15||0/10||10||0/10|
|Ukraine (3, 6, 9, 28)||5/15||0/10||10||0/10|
|United Arab Emirates (6, 22, 34)||0/5||0/2||0/5||0|
|United Kingdom (28, 38, 40)||5/15||0/5||5||0/10|
|United States (16, 24, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33)||5/10||0/5/10||5||0/10|
|Uzbekistan (6, 28)||10||0/10||10||0/10|
|Vietnam (6, 9)||15||0/10||15||0/10|
|Zimbabwe (3, 6, 9, 28)||10/20||0/10||10||0/10|
* Under Bulgarian domestic legislation, dividends distributed to non-residents are subject to 5% WHT, unless the recipient is a tax resident company of an EU/EEA member state (in which case the recipient is not subject to WHT).
** Under Bulgarian domestic legislation, interest and royalty payments accrued to EU-tax-resident companies, satisfying the Interest and Royalty Directive requirements, are exempt from WHT.
- The lower rate applies to dividends paid out to a non-resident that is the direct owner of at least the equivalent of 100,000 United States dollars (USD) forming part of the capital of the company making the payment.
- The reduced rate for royalties is available for the use of (or right to use) industrial, commercial, or scientific equipment.
- The lower rate applies in specific cases only (e.g. if a company that beneficially owns the dividend directly holds at least 10% of the shares of the dividend payer for at least 365 days, dividends to pension funds).
- There is no WHT on royalties for the use of (or the right to use) scientific or cultural works.
- The lower rate applies to dividends paid out to a foreign company that directly controls at least 15% of the share capital of the payer of the dividends.
- There is no WHT on interest when paid to public bodies (government, the central bank, and, in several cases, certain governmental bodies).
- The lower rate for interest applies only in specific circumstances (e.g. under loan granted by banks). The royalty definition under the new tax treaty with the Netherlands is narrowed, and it excludes payments for the use/right to use ICS equipment.
- Up to 10% branch tax may be imposed on PE profits.
- The 10% rate on capital gains from securities applies in specific cases that are described in the respective treaty (including capital gains from disposal of shares in certain cases).
- The zero rate on interest applies if the loan is extended by a bank and also for industrial, trade, and scientific equipment on credit.
- The zero rate on interest applies if the interest is paid to public bodies (government, municipality, the central bank, or any financial institution owned entirely by the government), to residents of the other country when the loan or the credit is guaranteed by its government, or if the loan is extended by a company for any equipment or goods.
- The Council of Ministers has stated its intention to renegotiate the DTTs with Malta and Finland.
- A 5% rate on royalties applies if the Swiss Confederation introduces in its domestic law WHT on royalties paid to non-residents.
- The 10% rate on interest applies if the interest is received from a financial institution, including an insurance company.
- The 5% rate on royalties applies if the royalties are paid for the use of copyright for literary, art, or scientific work.
- The lower rate applies to dividends paid out to a foreign company that directly controls at least 10% of the share capital of the payer of the dividends.
- The zero rate applies to dividends payable by a Bulgarian resident entity to an entity resident in Malta. The 30% rate applies to dividends payable by a Maltese entity to a Bulgarian entity.
- The 10% rate applies to dividends distributed by companies that enjoy a reduced or zero CIT by virtue of a tax incentive for investments. In all other cases, the rate is equal to one half of the applicable rate as per the national legislations of Bulgaria and Israel. Nevertheless, the WHT rate may not be less than 7.5% or more than 12.5%.
- The 5% rate applies to interest payable to banks or other financial institutions. The zero rate applies to interest payable to certain public bodies (governments, municipalities, central banks) or to residents of the other country when the loan or credit is guaranteed, insured, or financed by a public body of that country or by the Israeli International Trade Insurance Company.
- The rate on royalties is equal to one half of the applicable rate as per the national legislations of Bulgaria and Israel. Nevertheless, the WHT rate may not be less than 7.5% or more than 12.5%.
- The rate on capital gains from securities is equal to one half of the applicable rate as per the national legislations of Bulgaria and Israel. Nevertheless, the WHT rate may not be less than 7.5% or more than 12.5%. However, capital gains from transfers of shares in entities whose real estate properties exceed 50% of their assets are taxed in the country in which the real estate is located.
- The zero rate applies to dividends and interest paid to certain public governmental and local bodies as well as entities fully owned by the state.
- The 5% rate on royalties applies if the royalties are paid for the use of copyright for literary, art, or scientific work as well as for the use of industrial, commercial, or scientific equipment.
- There is no WHT on interest when paid to and beneficially owned by public bodies (government, local public authorities, the central bank, or any financial institution wholly owned by the government), as well as on interest derived on loans guaranteed by the foreign government or based on an agreement between the governments of the states.
- The 7% rate on royalties applies if the royalties are paid for the use of, or the right to use, cinematograph films and films or tapes for radio or television broadcasting, any patent, trademark, design or model, plan, secret formula, or process.
- The zero rate applies for capital gains from shares in a Bulgarian resident company that are traded on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange.
- In accordance with the EU Parent-Subsidiary Directive implemented in the Bulgarian legislation, dividends distributed by a Bulgarian resident company to an entity that is a tax resident in an EU member state may not be subject to Bulgarian WHT.
- Full WHT at source may be levied on capital gains from the sale of shares in companies, the main assets of which are direct or indirect holdings in real estate situated in Bulgaria, and in some other cases (subject to the specifics stipulated in the respective treaty).
- There is no WHT on interest when paid to public bodies (government, the central bank, governmental institutions) or any financial institution wholly owned by the government.
- Pension funds and charities are considered resident persons.
- The zero rate does not apply to dividends distributed to real estate investment trusts (REITs).
- The zero rate does not apply to interest paid under a back-to-back loan.
- The benefits of the treaty are limited to entities that satisfy certain criteria (Limitation of Benefits clause).
- The 5% rate on royalties applies if the royalties are paid for the use of, or the right to use, any patent, design, model, plan, secret formula, process, or know-how.
- The treaty provides for 10% WHT on capital gains unless shares were sold on a recognised stock exchange or seller owned at least 20% of the issuing company's capital.
- The reduced rate for interest is available for bank loans (subject to specifics in the treaty).
- The zero rate applies to dividends paid to a pension fund, central bank, or a foreign company (other than a partnership) if the company directly controls at least 10% of the share capital of the payer for at least one year.
- The zero rate applies to interest paid to a pension fund, a public body (i.e. the government, a political subdivision, a local authority, or a central bank), in relation to a liability for the sale on credit of goods, equipment or services, as well as to a company with a minimum direct participation of at least 10% in the payer of the interest for at least one year or where a third company holds a 10% minimum direct participation in both the payer and the recipient of the interest.
- The use or right of use of industrial, economic, and scientific equipment has been excluded from the definition of royalty and is subject to full WHT exemption.
- The zero rate on dividends applies on dividends distributed to and beneficially owned by a company resident of a contracting state or a pension fund. The 5% rate would apply in all other cases, unless the dividends are paid out of income that is derived from immovable property by an investment vehicle that distributes most of this income annually and whose income from such property is exempted from tax (i.e. real estate investment trust). 15% WHT rate is provided under the tax treaty to a dividend paid out by a real estate investment trust.
- The zero rate applies to interest paid to certain public bodies (i.e. the government, a political subdivision, a local authority, or a central bank) under a loan extended by a bank or in relation to a sale of industrial, commercial, or scientific equipment on credit or a loan of any kind extended or guaranteed by a governmental institution for the encouragement of exports.
- The zero rate applies to copyright royalties and other like payments in respect of the production or reproduction of cultural, dramatic, musical, or other artistic work (not including royalties in respect of motion picture films and works on film or videotape or other means of reproduction for use in connection with television), arising in one state and paid to a resident of the other state who is subject to tax thereon.
- The 12.5% rate applies to royalties, and the 10% rate applies to technical services.
- The new DTT between Bulgaria and the Netherlands shall apply from January 2022.
Under some DTTs, technical service payments fall within the definition of royalty payments and are taxed accordingly.