Corporate - Tax credits and incentives

Last reviewed - 01 July 2020

Foreign tax credit

A credit for foreign taxes may be applied against the Maltese tax charge (see Foreign income in the Income determination section for more information).

Inbound investment

Investments by foreigners may be readily repatriated together with profits.

As of 1 January 2020, one would need to take into consideration the new provisions for exit taxation under Maltese tax law introduced in line with the adoption of the ATAD provisions.

In terms of these new exit tax provisions, with effect from 1 January 2020, a taxpayer may be subject to tax on capital gains where assets are owned by the taxpayer and are transferred outside the Maltese income tax net in the following circumstances:

  • the assets are transferred from the head office in Malta to its PE outside Malta, in so far as Malta no longer has the right to tax capital gains from the transfer of such assets due to the transfer
  • the assets/business of a non-resident are transferred from its PE to the head office/another PE outside Malta in so far as Malta no longer has the right to tax capital gains from the transfer of such assets due to the transfer, or
  • transfer of tax residence from Malta to a place outside Malta except for those assets that remain effectively connected with a PE in Malta.

In the circumstances outlined above, the taxpayer is deemed to have transferred those assets and may be considered to have derived a capital gain. The capital gain is calculated by reference to an amount equal to the market value of the transferred assets, at the time of exit of the assets, less their base cost for tax purposes.

The income tax that may become chargeable on the deemed transfer becomes payable by not later than the taxpayer’s subsequent tax return date. This said, the payment may, in certain circumstances and subject to certain conditions, be deferred by paying it in instalments over five years.

Incentives for inbound investment

The Malta Enterprise Act and other related legislation provide a comprehensive package of incentives for inbound investment. These incentives are reserved for enterprises carrying on certain activities in Malta, mainly manufacturing activities. The focus is on high-value-added activities, and approval of a project’s eligibility for benefits by Malta Enterprise may be required. In general, eligibility does not depend on whether the company produces for the local or export markets. The main tax incentives include the following:

  • Enterprises carrying out qualifying activities, which mainly include manufacturing activities, qualify for investment tax credits whereby a percentage of qualifying expenditures are off-set against the tax charge (not against taxable income). The Investment Aid (July 2014) Regulations, 2014 (the 'Regulations') were issued on 24 October 2014, and guidelines in this regard have been published by Malta Enterprise. Such guidelines form the basis of the investment aid scheme that is in force until 31 December 2020. The Regulations apply to qualifying undertakings, which may benefit from investment tax credits in respect of certain qualifying activities, which are quantified as a percentage of qualifying expenditure incurred in terms of the guidelines. The tax credits range between 15% and 35% of the qualifying expenditure for projects commencing before 31 December 2017 and between 10% and 30% for projects commencing between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2020, depending on the undertaking’s size. New updated guidelines are expected to be issued in relation to projects starting after 1 January 2021. Additionally, a separate scheme related to COVID-19 products is expected to be issued imminently.
  • Certain tax credits and special incentives may be available, subject to certain conditions. These tax credits are calculated on the basis of specific expenditures incurred by a company, while the special incentives grant tax exemptions on all or part of the chargeable income in specified circumstances.
  • No further tax is charged on distributions from profits that had previously been taxed at a reduced rate. This benefit is also extended to amounts that were not subject to tax on account of investment tax credits and specific tax credits/special incentives.

The combination of certain tax treaties and Maltese domestic law lowers the Maltese tax rate on certain companies receiving certain industrial assistance (i.e. mainly assistance in terms of the Malta Enterprise Act, Business Promotion Act, and Business Promotion Regulations) to 15%.

A number of other schemes administered by Malta Enterprise (e.g. the Investment Aid for Energy Efficiency Projects Scheme) cater to undertakings operating in a number of industries and may provide tax benefits to the eligible undertakings. 

In addition, the Seed Investment Scheme (Income Tax) rules offer tax relief to start-ups with the aim of encouraging access to finance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In terms of these rules, ‘qualifying investors’ should be entitled to a tax credit amounting to 35% of the aggregate value of their investment in qualifying companies (total tax credit not exceeding EUR 250,000 per annum). Such tax credit would be set off against the tax due by the qualifying investor in respect of any income or gains brought to charge to tax in the year of assessment following the basis year when the investments are made. The tax credit may be carried forward until it is fully absorbed. In addition, qualifying investors may be entitled to an exemption from tax in respect of any gains or profits derived from the disposal of their qualifying investments, where such investments are disposed of after the lapse of three years from the date of subscription to the equity shares.

Under Operational Programme I (OPI) for Malta’s EU Cohesion Policy programme for 2014-2020, EUR 51 million were earmarked for ERDF Grant Schemes in aid of local enterprises. The grant schemes are aimed at supporting SME investments to enhance SME competitiveness. These grant schemes focus on the following areas: research, development, and innovation, e-commerce, start-up investments, SME growth, SME diversification and innovation, SME internationalisation, and SME consultancy services.

In the context of audio-visual production industries, a financial incentive in the form of a rebate applies and has been introduced with effect from 1 January 2019 and may be availed of till 31 December 2020. The rebate that may be granted is capped at 40% of eligible expenditure, and it may be in the form of a cash grant. This may be further extended to 50% of eligible expenditure in the case of difficult audio-visual works.

International business profits

Other Maltese tax considerations that may be relevant in an international business context include the following:

  • Maltese tax law provides for a beneficial tax treatment in respect of securitisation vehicles and similarly to re-insurance special purpose vehicles.
  • Possibility to set up cell entities in Malta, inter alia, for insurance business, collective investment schemes, securitisation vehicles.
  • The possibility of setting up protected/segregated cell companies in the aviation and shipping sectors has been introduced in Maltese law. Consequently, Maltese company law now provides for the formation, constitution, authorisation, and regulation of cell companies carrying on or engaged in aviation or shipping business. Such cell companies allow for the possibility of segregating vessels or aircraft portfolios within the same corporate entity, thus segregating the risks and benefits attributable to the particular cell, without affecting the risks and benefits attributable to other cells within the same cell company. This should grant additional flexibility for the Maltese aviation and maritime sector, especially in respect of the variety in the types of entities that may be used in carrying on the particular activities and relative to the granting and receipt of financing involving ships and aircraft.
  • A beneficial tax regime is available in respect of collective investment schemes.
  • The Maltese fiscal implications relative to trusts and private foundations vary, depending on a number of circumstances, including: (i) the particulars of the parties involved (e.g. domicile or residence of the trustees/administrator or beneficiaries), (ii) the act or event under review (e.g. the settlement of property, transfers of beneficial interests, distributions of trust/foundation assets), and (iii) the nature of the trust/foundation assets. Furthermore, in certain circumstances, tax transparency provisions are set out in the law, particularly so as to allow, among other things, the application of tax exemptions that would have applied to beneficiaries if there was no trust relationship or foundation.
  • An option exists for a step-up in the cost of acquisition of assets situated outside Malta (including companies) effecting a change in domicile or residence or becoming Maltese companies as a result of cross-border mergers.

Other tax credits

A tax credit for micro enterprises is provided under the Micro Invest Scheme. The credit amounts to 45% (or 65% for undertakings operating in Gozo) of eligible capital expenditure and/or wage costs incurred, which tax credit would then be utilised against the tax incurred on income derived from the qualifying trade or business activity for that financial year, subject to certain maximum limits applied over three consecutive fiscal years.

The applicant undertaking cannot employ more than 50 full-time employees, and the maximum eligible tax credits per single undertaking is EUR 50,000 over any period of three consecutive fiscal years. This maximum credit is further increased to EUR 70,000 in respect of undertakings operating in Gozo, family businesses, and female-owned undertakings.

A tax credit for skills development has been introduced in 2018 with the aim of offering assistance for the development of training programs. Where Malta Enterprise is satisfied that an undertaking qualifies under this scheme, assistance with respect to eligible costs shall not exceed 70% for small undertakings, 60% for medium-sized enterprises, and 50% for large undertakings. The total amount of assistance that may be granted should not exceed the amount of EUR 2 million. Support in terms of this scheme may be awarded until 31 December 2022.

A further incentive introduced by Malta Enterprise that may be applied for till 1 October 2020 relates to the support for the development of video games with a cultural dimension and shall be applicable till December 2020. The maximum financial support that a single undertaking may benefit from under this scheme shall not exceed EUR 200,000 over a period of three years and should not exceed 30% of the qualifying costs incurred for the development of the video game. The support may be provided either in the form of a tax credit or as a cash grant. A cash grant awarded in this respect shall not exceed 20% of the total assistance awarded. Should the financial support be awarded in the form of a tax credit, this shall be due as a deduction of the tax payable by the undertaking on its chargeable income derived from the profits generated from the supported video game for that year of assessment. If the tax credit for that year of assessment exceeds the income tax payable on chargeable income derived from the profits generated from the supported video game by such an undertaking for that year, the excess in the tax credit can be carried forward to the subsequent year of assessment and deemed to be a tax credit for that year.

During the 2020 Government Budget, it was announced that improvements to the start-up tax credit scheme will be launched in 2020 in order to further incentivise new businesses setting up or relocating in Gozo. Further to this, the Ministry for Gozo has set up the Gozo Teleworking Scheme for Gozitan employees working in the Maltese private sector offering financial assistance to employers related to teleworking.

Any person in possession of a permit issued by the Environment and Resources Authority for the acceptance in one's quarry of construction and demolition material from a third party, who during a relevant year between 2020 and 2023 provides qualifying services, may claim a tax credit equivalent to 5% of the gross fees received for the provision of such services. 

The Malta Council for Science and Technology, together with Malta Enterprise, have issued a call for proposals under the COVID-19 R&D Fund to encourage entities to engage in research and development activities with the aim of identifying innovative approaches for the prevention, control, and containment of COVID-19. The eligible expenditure under the scheme includes costs directly related to the R&D project, including personnel costs, specialised equipment, other operating expenses in relation to pre-clinical and clinical trials, R&D services, overheads capped at 10% of direct eligible costs, and subcontracted activities as defined. The fund shall operate up to the earlier of when the funds are exhausted or 31 December 2020.