Guernsey, Channel Islands

Corporate - Significant developments

Last reviewed - 20 August 2020

Economic substance regulations

After concerns were raised by the European Union (EU) Code of Conduct Group that companies in Guernsey could be used to shift profits that do not correspond to their economic activities or presence in Guernsey, legislation was introduced, effective from 1 January 2019, that requires companies with geographically mobile activities (or ‘relevant activities’) to prove their economic substance in Guernsey. To satisfy the substance requirements, companies must show that they are directed and managed in Guernsey, that they conduct core income generating activities in Guernsey, and that there are adequate qualified employees, premises, and operating expenditure in Guernsey. The ‘relevant activities’ are as follows:

  • Banking.
  • Insurance.
  • Shipping.
  • Fund management (this does not include companies that are collective investment vehicles).
  • Finance and leasing.
  • Headquarters.
  • Distribution and service centres.
  • Holding company (a pure equity holding company).
  • Intellectual property (IP) holding companies, for which there are specific requirements in high risk scenarios.

Corporate tax residence

From 1 January 2019, the Guernsey tax residence law was amended to include a central management and control test, as well as provisions to reduce the incidence of dual tax residence. From 1 January 2019, a company is tax resident in Guernsey if:

  • it is controlled in Guernsey, or is centrally managed and controlled in Guernsey in that year of charge, or
  • it is incorporated in Guernsey and has not been granted tax-exempt status.

A company is not deemed resident in Guernsey, even if it is incorporated, controlled, or centrally managed and controlled in Guernsey, if the company can demonstrate that it satisfies the following conditions:

  • the company is tax resident in another jurisdiction under its domestic law
  • the company is centrally managed and controlled in this jurisdiction, and
  • either:
    • the company is tax resident in this jurisdiction by reason of a double taxation treaty (DTT) where a tie-breaker clause applies, or
    • the highest rate of tax on a company in this jurisdiction is at least 10%.

The company must also show that its residency status in the overseas jurisdiction is not motivated by the avoidance, reduction, or deferral of the liability of any person to tax.

Extension of 10% and 20% income tax rate

Income may be taxable at a 0%, 10%, or 20% rate. There has been an extension of the 10% and 20% income tax rate to include the following sources of income:

  • From 1 January 2019, income derived from the regulated activity of operating an investment exchange and income from compliance and other related activities provided to regulated financial services businesses (e.g. advising on corporate governance, risk management, and compliance with the regulatory framework) is taxable at 10%.
  • From January 2020, income arising from the activity of operating an aircraft registry is taxable at 10%.
  • From 1 January 2020, income arising from the cultivation of cannabis plants and income from the use of those cultivated cannabis plants or parts of those cultivated cannabis plants or licensed production of controlled drugs is taxable at 20%.

Mandatory Disclosure Regime (MDR)

The Government of Guernsey, along with the governments of Jersey and Isle of Man, has pledged to introduce legislation by the end of 2019 in response to the EU Code of Conduct Group (Business Taxation) ('Code Group') review, which suggested the MDR as a further transparency measure for jurisdictions involved in the Code Group's work on economic substance.

The preference of the Government of Guernsey is to implement the MDR based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) model, which requires disclosure in two areas, Common Reporting Standard (’CRS’) Avoidance Arrangements and Passive Offshore Vehicles in Opaque Structures. 

Guernsey-United Kingdom (UK) DTT

The revised DTT between Guernsey and the United Kingdom, which entered into force on 7 January 2019, takes effect for Guernsey income taxes from 1 January 2020. The DTT took effect for the following taxes during 2019:

  • 1 March 2019 for taxes withheld at source in Guernsey and the United Kingdom.
  • 1 April 2019 for UK corporation tax.
  • 6 April 2019 for UK income tax.