Shareholders of a Cyprus company have the right to request that the directors convene an extraordinary general meeting (EGM), and the directors are legally obliged to do so within a specified time. For the EGM to be legally valid, it must be made only by those who hold at least one-tenth of the company's paid-up share capital and have the right to vote in general meetings. Further, it must be signed and deposited at the company's registered office and must be called within 21 days of the request.
With the extended deadline for the submission of applications for inclusion in the deferred settlement scheme for tax arrears established by Law 4(I)/2017 now less than one month away, the Tax Department has issued a further reminder of the scheme's main features. For example, all tax returns due must have been submitted and all tax liabilities for periods after December 31 2015 must have been settled or be in the process of being settled in accordance with an agreed payment schedule.
Cyprus saw its highest increase in gross domestic product in almost a decade in the first quarter of 2017. The dark days of the 2013 financial crisis appear to be in the past and foreign investment remains at the heart of government strategy, aided by factors such as the citizenship-by-investment programme, which will help to attract private investment in the property, retail and pharmaceutical sectors.
Since November 2015 the government has subsidised practical training on board ships for deck and engine cadet officers. The Department of Merchant Shipping recently announced changes to this scheme and the procedure for claiming reimbursement. The scheme has now been extended to cover vessels managed by companies located in other EU member states and a new requirement of at least 750 kilowatts of propulsion power has been introduced.
The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the long-established principle that when contracting parties agree to amend or replace an agreement, the new agreement will replace the old one and define all of their rights and obligations. Accordingly, in a case where a settlement agreement is agreed between the parties, but not fully complied with by one of them, the other party cannot reinstate any of its rights under the initial agreement.
The Income Tax Law was amended in 2012 to introduce accelerated capital allowances for tax purposes on assets purchased between 2012 and 2014, inclusive. For plant and machinery acquired up to the end of 2018, the annual writing-down allowance rate will be 20% or any higher rate applying to the category of assets concerned. For industrial buildings and hotels acquired up to the end of 2018, the annual writing-down allowance will be 7%.
A number of new employment-related laws have been adopted in 2017, including the long-awaited Protection of Paternity Law and the Protection of Maternity (Amendment) Law, which introduced the concept of surrogacy. Amendments to existing laws regarding redundancy and smoking in the workplace have also been made.
The Limassol District Court recently concluded that an appeal pending before the English courts does not suspend an order's enforcement or diminish the validity of an arbitral award. The applicants had applied for the recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award issued in May 2016. The court held that the order was final and that there had been no abuse of process; the respondents' request to set aside the award was therefore rejected.
The Supreme Court recently issued its decision in a case concerning the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission's imposition of a €100,000 fine on Marfin for buying shares in Marfin Popular Bank Plc on the Athens Stock Exchange during a closed period, which had contravened the Insider Dealing and Market Manipulation (Market Abuse) Law 2005 and the Code of Conduct for Advisers and Related Persons issued thereunder.
The Tax Department recently opened a public consultation on proposed legislation to implement the EU Anti-tax Avoidance Directive, which extends the rules to hybrid mismatches. The consultation period will last until December 8 2017. The consultation documents, which are in Greek, are available on the Tax Department's website.
The Merchant Shipping (Fees and Taxing Provisions) Law 2010 imposes a surcharge on the tonnage tax payable by qualifying vessels registered in countries which appear on the grey or black list of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding. On the basis of the 2016 Paris Memorandum of Understanding annual report, the Department of Merchant Shipping recently determined which flags are included in the relevant grey or black list for the purposes of calculating tonnage tax for 2017.
Unlike many other popular initial coin offering (ICO) jurisdictions, Cyprus is an EU member state and, as such, founders of ICOs must comply with the panoply of single market regulation. However, as they are largely unregulated at present, the benefits of launching an ICO in Cyprus can be significant. These include an EU base, a central time zone, access to Cyprus's vast array of tax treaties and white-list status among tax authorities globally.
The Process of Adjustment of Tax Arrears Law 2017 established a procedure for settling tax arrears by monthly instalments, providing a waiver of up to 95% of interest and penalties and covering all nationally imposed taxes. The Tax Department recently issued an announcement informing taxpayers who have applied to participate in the scheme that strict compliance with the agreed terms is essential. In particular, payments must be made on or before the due date or penalties will be applied.
Law 123(I)/2017 has upgraded the Department of Merchant Shipping to a deputy ministry under the direction of the newly created post of deputy minister of shipping with effect from March 1 2018. The new Deputy Ministry of Maritime Affairs will assume the Department of Merchant Shipping's powers and responsibilities. This upgrade reflects the importance of the shipping sector in Cyprus and the significance that the government places on its development.
In December 2015 Cyprus's tax laws were amended to provide a temporary tax exemption for loan restructurings in order to facilitate and encourage the restructuring of non-performing loans. The exemptions introduced in 2015 were intended to be valid for two years from the date on which the various amending laws entered into force and were therefore set to expire on December 31 2017. However, a number of new laws recently extended the exemptions for a further two years.
The Process of Adjustment of Tax Arrears Law 2017 established a procedure for settling tax arrears by monthly instalments and provided a waiver of interest and penalties of up to 95% for all nationally imposed taxes. The law was recently amended by Law 129(I)/2017, which has extended the deadline for submitting applications from three months after the law took effect to six months.
Parliament recently voted to introduce the Protection of Paternity Law. The law came into force on August 1 2017 and gives fathers in Cyprus the right to two consecutive weeks' paid paternity leave. The law has introduced statutory family-friendly rights to Cyprus for the first time, giving employers the opportunity to incentivise and support parents in their workforce.
The Income Tax Law provides for a notional interest deduction for tax purposes on new equity capital injected into companies and permanent establishments of foreign companies on or after January 1 2015 to finance business assets, calculated by applying a reference rate to the new equity. The Tax Department recently announced the bond yields for Greece, Italy and Kazakhstan which will be used to calculate the notional interest deduction for the 2016 and 2017 tax years.
Following the economic crisis, Cyprus witnessed the merging of several cooperative societies, mainly cooperative credit institutions. These mergers reduced the number of cooperative credit institutions from over 300 to just 18. However, in July 2017 a second merger took place which saw the 18 institutions merged into a single entity. Although cooperative societies are limited liability companies, the procedure that must be followed for merging such companies varies significantly.
In a recent Limassol District Court case, the applicants applied for the recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award issued by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The respondents had previously applied to the Cypriot courts to set aside and annul the arbitral award pursuant to the International Commercial Arbitration Law. In their objection to the application for the recognition of the award, the respondents advanced additional grounds to those raised in their earlier application to annul the award.