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International Offshore Jurisdiction Spotlight - Isle of Man as a Tax Haven

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Isle of Man and its Global Business Opportunities

The Isle of Man is a well-known tax haven and is a self-governing territory that is part of the British Crown but enjoys separate autonomy and is known for its well-established finance and offshore banking sectors.

The island’s offshore market has an international reputation and has been offering offshore company registration services since the 1930s. The offshore tax haven offers close proximity to the UK, limited access to EU markets, and a supportive government that has a long tradition of offshore banking, all in a low tax jurisdiction.

Banking has been a central part of the Isle of Man's economy for the last four decades, due to the governments support of the financial sector. The country has strong financial regulations. Dozens of English and European banks have a branch on the island attracted by the low tax and investment incentives that continue to play an important role in the island's ethos.

The Isle of Man has a number of pieces of legislation that govern the offshore sector, taken from The English Companies Act 1929. The legislation allows for quick incorporation processing, flexible administrative structuring, and minimal reporting requirements together with a formidable reputation which help make the Isle of Man a respected and well-known tax haven to form an offshore company.

Table of Contents:

Benefits of Isle of Man as a Tax Haven

  • International reputation as a well-regarded tax haven
  • Respected financial jurisdiction
  • English as the official and common language
  • Close geographical proximity to Great Britain and Europe
  • A robust offshore and financial market
  • The Isle of Man is on the OECD’s ‘white list’
  • The country has met all of the international regulatory requirements that have been put forward by the IMF, FATF, and the EU
  • There is a 0% corporate tax rate (except banks)
  • Low tax economy
  • Free trade with the UK
  • Political and economic stability
  • Long-standing political system
  • Sophisticated banking system
  • Though not part of the EU, its VAT number is accepted in the EU
  • Fast incorporation times
  • Single-member ownership of an international company is available
  • The Isle of Man Companies Registry has been in existence since 1865
  • Supportive government legislation and financial incentives for the continuing growth of the financial sector
  • All foreign-owned ‘offshore’ companies receive residential status

 
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New Economic Substance Requirements & How will it affect your Isle of Man company?

New economic substance requirements have gone into effect as of January 1, 2019, and are now a part of legislation in the Isle of man that affects all tax resident companies formed within the country. The new laws are in relation to the economic activity of local companies in specific industries such as:

  • Banking Business
  • Insurance Business
  • Fund Management
  • Finance and Leasing
  • Headquarters
  • Shipping
  • Holding Company 
  • Distribution and Service Centre
  • Intellectual Property

The new tax laws deem a company a local company and therefore a tax resident if:

  • the company is directed and managed in the Isle of Man
  • has qualified employees
  • has expenditure proportionate to the level of activity carried out in the Isle of Man;
  • has a physical presence; and
  • conducts income-generating activities in the Isle of Man. 

These laws are specifically geared toward local companies and are not for a non-resident company. In order to be free from the economic substance, you would need to know whether or not your company and its activities are classified as a resident or non-resident company for tax purposes.

Tax Residency Test

This is determined by a central management and control test which is to prove that the company is directed and managed within the country. All companies formed in the Isle of Man will need to determine if the new laws deem their entity a tax resident. 

Careful consideration needs to be given in order to understand the obligations of a local company and whether or not the company is bound by the new economic substance rules. Failure to comply can result in stiff penalties.

How to Opt-out of Tax Residence Requirements in the Isle of Man?

If a company is a tax resident elsewhere in the world, whereby the company is registered as such together with its directors and its meetings then a company is to be treated as a non-tax resident. 

Applications for a company to be considered not resident in the Isle of Man must be accompanied by the following evidence:

  1. Details of the person(s) exercising the management and control of the company, the forum and the manner in which this is exercised.
  2. Evidence of the central management and control being exercised in the other jurisdiction.
  3. A certificate of tax residence issued by the taxation authority in the other jurisdiction, confirming the date that the tax residence in that jurisdiction under domestic law commenced.
  4. Evidence that the company is considered to be Treaty Resident in the other jurisdiction under the terms of the tie-break clause in the DTA in place between the jurisdictions.

Or

  1. Evidence that the company is/will be subject to tax in the other jurisdiction at a rate of 15% or more. Note: If the jurisdiction has a rate of tax applicable to companies of 15% or more but the company is not subject to that rate, the company will not be able to satisfy this condition.

Gov Resource: IOM Tax residence of companies and other corporate taxpayers

What does all of this mean for my IOM Company?

To summarize: The new laws have dramatically changed the corporate environment in the Isle of Man making all companies de facto local companies unless you can fulfil the above requirements and prove that your company is in fact a non-resident company. However, the reason most individuals seek to incorporate as a non-resident company is to take advantage of local tax laws in a zero tax country.

The general motivation is to move from a high tax to a low tax country as a non-resident. These new laws effectively make that impossible. Without the nil tax environment and the inability to register as a non-resident, the corporate tax benefits are not nearly as desirable for individuals looking to incorporate in the Isle of Man for a tax advantage. Nonetheless, they still do provide advantages they just will not have the same tax advantages as they once did.

Offshore Banking Details in the Isle of Man

  • A wide range of personal and corporate banking services
  • No minimum deposits for opening an account
  • Multi-currency accounts are available
  • Many of the worlds major banks have branches on the island
  • Well established banking infrastructure
  • The islands banks have good relations with corresponding banks
  • The banking sector is not blacklisted

Background Information about Isle of Man as a Tax Haven

Location

The Isle of Man is a small independent island nation a part of the British Isles between Great Britain and Ireland in the middle of the Irish Sea. The island has a total landmass area of 572 square kilometres and 160km of coastline.

Political Structure

The Isle of Mann has a long history dating back some 6500BC. The small nation is completely independent of the United Kingdom and is an internally self-governing country that is a British Crown dependency. Meaning that the country has full autonomy, though the British government is responsible for its foreign relations and defence.

The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who is given the title the Lord of Mann and is represented through a Lieutenant Governor. The country is governed through a Parliamentary Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. The islands parliament, the Tynwald has its existence dating back to 979AD and is considered the world’s longest standing parliament.

There are two houses that make up the Legislature, the Upper house, referred to as the Legislative Council and the Lower house referred to as the House of Keys. The Chief Minister serves as the head of government for five year who is elected from the House of Keys after a general election. The country’s executive power lies in the hands of the Lieutenant Governor, the Chief Minister and the Isle of Man’s Council of Ministers. The country has a judiciary that is separate from the other governmental branches

Political party influence is not very strong and many political candidates usually run as independents. The largest party is the Liberal Vannin Party, while some of the other party’s that are represented in parliament are the Many Labour Party and the Alliance for Progressive Government. Though the British Parliament has ultimate authority over the matters of the Tynwald legislature, there is a long-standing agreement that the UK will not interfere with issues related to domestic concerns. While the country is not a part of the European Union due to its relationship with the UK there are several EU laws that are binding. As a result, Isle of Man goods can be moved throughout the EU tariff free but capital and services can not.

Economy and Infrastructure

The economy used to be predominately made up of fishing and agriculture though today those traditional forms of economy are quickly becoming obsolete. This has been due to the rise of the offshore sector as well as banking, financial services, manufacturing, and tourism, which now dominate the economy.

While many financial service dominated sectors have been hurt over the last few years due to the downturn and the changes in the international economic regulations the banking system on the island remains stable.

The country has a GDP at 4.1 billion pounds (2010) with a per capita income at USD 53,800 making it the 11th highest income in the world. The island is in a customs union with the UK, which accounts for most of the country’s trade.

The Islands has a developed infrastructure with two mobile operations and four broadband Internet service providers and is connected to a worldwide fibre optic network.

The island has over 1000 kilometres of public paved roads. There is a comprehensive public bus service as well as ferries to Britain and Ireland and Northern Ireland. There is one commercial airport, which has scheduled and chartered flights to a number of airports in the UK. There is also a train that runs between several locations through the island.

Population, Language and Culture

The population of the nation is just under 85,000 (2011) with the capital Douglas being he largest city on the island with nearly 28,000. The inhabitants of the island are mostly from the Isle of Man making up 48%, with the rest of the population coming from England 36%, Scotland 3%, Northern Ireland 2%, Republic of Ireland 2%, Wales 1% with the remaining 7.5% coming from various countries around the world.

The official language of the country is English though a small portion of the population, roughly 2,000 inhabitants claim that they can speak the local Manx Gaelic language. The language is of Celtic origins and is one of a number that are spoken amongst the other inhabitants of the British Isles and is similar to Scottish Gaelic an Irish.

The Island of Man’s culture is influenced by Celtic and Norse origins. There is a long tradition of myths and folklore that still remains in some forms. Much of the modern culture is mainly due to British influence due the large number of migrants that have come to the island.

The predominant religious tradition is Christianity followed by Methodist, Anglican and Roman Catholic. There are also a small minority of Muslims and Jewish traditions found on the island. The music is influenced from the Norse and Celtic traditions as well as those coming from Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales.

There has been a traditional music revival since the 1970s such continues to today. Seafood is large portion of the diet together with most other forms of meat. Traditional staple foods are spuds and herrin (potatoes and herring) and a more modern invention chips, cheese and gravy is found in most fast-food restaurants

Exchange Control

There are no exchange controls on the Isle of Man. The Manx pound is the local currency and is readily exchangeable with British pound.

Type of Law

The Isle of Man is based on English Common Law. British law found in the UK does not extend to the Isle of Mann although their system is based on English common law. The Manx legal system is the local system of governance that has been developed to meet the islands special circumstance, especially in regards to company law, taxation and financial matters.

Principal Corporate Legislation

The Isle of Man has its Company Law based off of the English Companies Act 1929. The Island has a few pieces of legislation that makes up the Companies Act 1931-2004, together with a Single Member Companies Act that allows for single-member ownership. There is also a 2006 Act Company that regulates another form of company under a separate piece of legislation that runs in parallel to the 1931 Companies Act. A company formed under the 1931 Act may freely convert itself to a company under the 2006 Act Company, but not vice versa.

Isle of Man Taxation 

The Isle of Man is considered a low tax haven jurisdiction. As such it does not have any corporate tax, capital gains tax, wealth tax, stamp duty, or inheritance tax. There is an income tax for residents at 10%-20% depending upon individuals yearly income, but companies are not subjected to it. All offshore or Foreign Private Companies incorporated on the Isle of Man are not subjected to any local taxation. However, all non-resident individuals are taxed at 20%

Isle of Man Corporate Tax Rates

The Isle of Man has zero corporate taxes, although there is a 10% is applied to banking and retail that have an income of £500,000. There is also a 20% income tax on all land and property purchases, sales or development projects.

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