Offshore Jurisdiction Review: Is Luxembourg A Tax Haven?
- Last updated on . Written by Offshore Protection.
On the surface, there does not appear to be anything special about the small European nation of Luxembourg that would classify it as a tax haven. It’s quoted personal income and corporate tax rates are nothing out of the ordinary. Yet for the past six decades, it has been a tax haven of choice for wealthy individuals and businesses from Europe and around the world.
In this article, we look at the features of Luxembourg’s corporate and tax structures which make it such an attractive tax haven jurisdiction.
Go here for more info on setting up an offshore Luxembourg company.
Table of Contents:
- Why Choose Luxembourg As An Offshore Tax Haven?
- Benefits Of Setting Up An Offshore Business In Luxembourg
- Background Information About Luxembourg
- Political Structure
- Economy And Infrastructure
- Population, Language And Culture
- Exchange Control
- Type Of Law
- Principle Corporate Legislation
- Corporate Tax
- Personal Income Tax
- Withholding Tax
Why Choose Luxembourg as an Offshore Tax Haven?
The key feature of Luxembourg’s tax structure which make it an ideal tax haven is its “territorial” tax system. While residents of Luxembourg are required to pay taxes on their global income, non-residents and foreign entities are only taxed on the income that they earn within Luxembourg itself. This system has been adopted by other nations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. However, Luxembourg’s is quite unique in how it only applies this territorial tax treatment to non-residents, indicating its intention to position itself as an offshore haven.
What this means is that, even though the standard personal and corporate income tax rates in Luxembourg are in line with global norms, international/multinational companies have been able to enter into agreements with Luxembourg that have enabled them to reduce their effective tax rate to under 1%. Evidence of such agreements were uncovered in the “Luxembourg Leaks” and include the likes of Amazon, Apple, AIG, and FedEx.
Luxembourg also has many other key features which have made it a top choice as a tax haven. It is popular with companies looking to issue debt because it does not charge a withholding tax. This also allows companies to avoid taxation on interest and royalty payments. Setting up a shell company in Luxembourg is extremely easy and the best way to utilise their various offshore tax benefits. Along with Ireland and Netherlands, Luxembourg is one of the top EU tax havens, where a significant portion of profits from other EU nations is transferred to reduce taxes.
Luxembourg lends itself to offshore company incorporation and is the most popular way to access its tax haven features. Some of the key advantages of setting up an offshore business in Luxembourg include:
- Territorial tax system: offshore LLCs and corporations (i.e., non-resident) are only required to pay income and corporate taxes on income earned/sourced within Luxembourg. This makes it ideal for large multi-national companies with operations in foreign countries other than Luxembourg. Citizens of countries which levy income taxes on worldwide income (e.g., USA) will still have to pay taxes to their own country.
- Security and stability: Luxembourg is a core EU nation with a stable political and economic environment. It offers high levels of security for corporate entities.
- Privacy: Only those corporations which are conducting operations in Luxembourg itself are entered into public records.
- Investment and trade hub: Luxembourg is the second largest investment funds centre in the world, with over EUR 2.5 trillion under management. Almost half of all incoming and outgoing EU investments pass through Luxembourg. This is astonishing for such a small country.
- Bearer shares are permitted: Luxembourg is one of the few jurisdictions where bearer shares are permitted, which offer greater confidentiality.
- Numerous favourable corporate structures available: Luxembourg corporate entities can choose one of several favourable structures, all offering different tax, security, and privacy benefits. For example:
- Holding company structure allows corporations to hold and manage assets while being able to lend and borrow, and collect royalty income. This can offer numerous tax advantages.
- Special investment fund structure opens the opportunity to invest in various securities, and only be subject to a miniscule annual subscription tax of 0.01% of the value of its net assets.
- Family wealth management company is another choice of corporate structure whereby individuals can optimally pass on their assets to their heirs.
- Fast incorporation: It takes only a week to incorporate a company in Luxembourg and shelf companies are available for faster incorporation.
- Excellent reputation: Luxembourg is a developed EU nation and is viewed as a transparent and reputable jurisdiction. Incorporating a company here can help you maintain a high degree of respectability and avoid unwanted scrutiny which you might otherwise be exposed to if you incorporate in a more traditional tax haven.
- Only one shareholder/director is required, and they may be of any nationality.
- Extremely liveable: Aside from being a business-friendly jurisdiction, Luxembourg is also a comfortable country to live in with a high quality of life.
Background Information about Luxembourg
Luxembourg is a small landlocked nation situation in Western Europe. It is bordered by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south.
Luxembourg has an area of only 2,586 square kilometers (998 sq mi), making it one of the smallest countries in Europe. Its capital is Luxembourg City.
Luxembourg is known as a “full democracy” (which is any country that scores above 8 on the democracy index). It has a parliamentary democracy that is headed by a constitutional monarch. The monarchical head of state is the grand duke (currently Grand Duke Henri), who exercises executive power along with the cabinet of ministers. Xavier Bettel has served as Prime Minister since 2013.
Economy and Infrastructure
As a well-developed EU nation, Luxembourg has a stable and high-income economy. They generally experience moderate growth, low inflation, and high levels of innovation. Unemployment rates in Luxembourg have remained low, most recently 4.9% in October 2022. Luxembourg has one of the highest GDP (PPP) per capita of $118,680 in 2021
Luxembourg features highly modern and well-functioning transport and communications networks. They have excellent education and health care standards, along with widespread access to public services.
Luxembourg ranked 4th in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s quality of life index, which gives an indication of the high quality of both their economy and infrastructure.
Population, Language and Culture
Luxembourg is one of the least populated European nations, with an estimated population size of 645,397 in 2022. The people of Luxembourg are called “Luxembourgers”. Nearly half of Luxembourg’s population is of foreign nationality (47.4% as of 2020). Majority of these immigrants are Portuguese (16.4%), French (6.6%), Italian (3.4%), and Belgian (3.3%).
The only national language in Luxembourg is Luxembourgish. It is the mother tongue for Luxembourgers and knowledge of the language is even a criterion for naturalisation. Luxembourg is a multi-lingual nation, with a high percentage of its citizens being able to competently speak French, German, and English.
Luxembourg is officially a secular state, but the government acknowledges certain religions as being officially mandated. This allows them to have an influence in religious administration in exchange for paying certain running costs and wages. Since 1980, it has been illegal for the state to collect statistics on religious beliefs.
Luxembourg’s culture has been outshone by the strong cultural traditions of its neighbours like France, Germany, and Belgium, and today it shares many of those cultural characteristics. However, it has maintained several of its own folk traditions, which take root in its predominantly rural history.
There are no exchange controls in Luxembourg. The official currency is the Euro, which can be freely exchanged.
Type of Law
The Luxembourg legal system is based on Civil Law. It is significantly influenced by its neighbouring countries; primarily France (Civil Code and New Code of Civil Procedure) and Belgium (Commercial Code and Criminal Code).
Principle Corporate Legislation
Luxembourg companies are governed by the Company Law of 10 August 1915 (Amended), which was inspired by Belgian corporate legislation.
Luxembourg has a territorial tax system which has differential tax treatment towards its citizens and/or residents compared to non-resident individuals and corporate entities. In general, the tax treatment of foreign entities is far more favourable, with exemptions and tax deductions across the board. The degree of exemption is such that Luxembourg is categorised as having a fully territorial tax system. Generally, a stay in Luxembourg of more than six consecutive months results in being classified as a tax resident.
Luxembourg corporate entities must pay tax on their worldwide income and non-resident entities only on Luxembourg-sourced income. For resident entities and those earning their income inside Luxembourg, the rates are as follows:
- Businesses with a taxable income lower than 175,000 EUR are liable for CIT at a rate of 15%.
- The tax rate for businesses with taxable income between EUR 175,000 and EUR 200,001 is EUR 26,250 plus 31% of the tax base above EUR 175,000.
- Finally, for companies with taxable income above EUR 200,001, the CIT rate is 17%. This leads to an overall maximum tax rate of 24.94% after including a solidarity surtax of 7% on the CIT rate (i.e., a net addition of 1.19%) and a 6.75% municipal business tax payable by all resident companies.
Personal Income Tax
Similarly, personal income tax is levied on worldwide income of persons residing in Luxembourg, and only on Luxembourg-sourced income of non-residents.
Luxembourg has complex classifications for tax rates, whereby income tax liability is based on personal circumstances. Taxpayers are put into three classes based on their family situation, and further distinguished by the income bracket they fall into. A detailed breakdown of how this system works can be found here. Ultimately though, the income tax rates range from 0% right up to 42% depending on which class and income bracket the taxpayer falls within.
There is zero withholding tax on dividends and royalties.
The attractive territorial tax system of Luxembourg, along with its various other business-friendly features and regulations, have made it a genuine haven for wealthy individuals and businesses around the world. It is most popular with EU companies and investors, which can be clearly seen by the sheer volume of profit share from other European nations which passes through Luxembourg’s borders to reduce taxes and maintain confidentiality.
Luxembourg Offshore Company Formations From Offshore Protection
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