At the present time a company incorporated in the Isle of Man, owned by non-residents and which complies with the other statutory requirements, is not liable to Isle of Man taxation. Whilst locally trading companies pay tax at 18%, a qualifying offshore company pays a flat annual tax of £475 or £1,000.
The Isle of Man is however required to comply with the E.U. Code of Conduct on Business Taxation and other international initiatives designed to eliminate discrimination between taxpayers. This means, essentially, that the tax treatment of local and offshore companies should be the same. The Island decided some time ago that it would meet its obligations by introducing a zero rate of taxation for all companies except those engaged in certain finance sector activities and the Government has now issued a consultation paper outlining how it is proposed that the new system will operate.
From April 2006 the distinction between offshore and locally resident companies will disappear and companies will be classified as distributing or non-distributing. A distributing company will be one of the following,
? Where the whole of the distributable profit has been charged to tax at the rate of 10% or
? Where the company has distributed a specified minimum of its distributable profit, expected to be 60% for a trading company and 100% for an investment company or
? A company owned wholly by non- residents, regardless of what percentage of profit is actually distributed.
It is this third category of qualification, which is the most important, as it means that companies, incorporated on the Isle of Man but wholly owned by non-residents, will continue to enjoy tax- free status.
Companies will have to apply for distributing status but the exact means by which they will do so has not as yet been decided. The Government has however indicated that companies which have successfully claimed such status may not be required to submit accounts with every tax return providing sufficient information is provided on the return to support the claim.
There are further rules which apply to companies which are wholly or partly owned by Isle of Man residents and these companies will be obliged to calculate the tax payable on that part of the profits applicable to local shareholders and to pay it over to the Treasury.
The new system will accord with the international obligation for the Isle of Man not to discriminate between onshore and offshore companies and enable it to escape the sanctions, which may be invoked against some of the other offshore centres.
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