The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the imposition of various measures on a global scale which have inevitably put restrictions on the physical presence of persons at their workplaces. This has raised concerns in relation to the permanent establishment of businesses and the tax residence status of legal persons. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development recently issued general guidelines for the interpretation of possible tax issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The admiralty division of the Supreme Court recently issued a judgment confirming that a warrant of arrest may be issued only in in rem proceedings against a vessel itself. The case concerned a dispute of the company shareholders which owned the Cyprus-registered vessel Mediterranean Diamond. The sole defendant in the proceedings was the shipowning company.
The Shipping Deputy Ministry recently issued Circular 20/2020, notifying interested parties of the entry into force of the 2018 amendments to the Code of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006. The amendments will enter into force on 26 December 2020. In essence, the amendments aim to provide additional protection to seafarers in the event that they are held captive as a result of acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships.
Cyprus and Russia recently signed a protocol amending the double tax treaty (DTT) between the two states. Businesses in Cyprus that will be subject to the protocol are advised to review their corporate structures and assess what impact, if any, the DTT changes will have on their overall effective tax exposure.
There are numerous advantages available to expatriates who take up employment in Cyprus. For each tax year, a 50% deduction is available to those who earn employment income of more than €100,000 annually or a 20% deduction for those earning below €100,000. Applications for the 20% deduction were meant to close at the end of 2020, but a draft bill suggesting its prolongation for an additional five years has been put before Parliament.
The Supreme Court recently overruled a first-instance decision which had acquitted the respondent and its director of charges concerning the non-payment of monthly salaries to monthly paid staff. The Supreme Court's approach appears to be a reasonable one. It illustrates the need to ensure employees' right to receive their salary and the benefits to which they are entitled on the basis of their employment agreement.
Cyprus recently agreed an updated double tax treaty (DTT) with Switzerland. The amendments made to the DTT focus on business profits, associated enterprises, mutual agreement procedures and benefit entitlement, and the amending protocol introduces the mandatory minimum standards of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Base Erosion and Profit Shifting actions regarding arrangements on bilateral conventions and verbal amendments agreed bilaterally.
The Tax Department recently informed the Cyprus International Businesses Association that it expects its new electronic taxation service to be operational imminently. The Tax Gateway aims to provide a central point via which all citizens, businesses and their representatives can gain information about debts owed and payments made to the department.
In a recent appeal, the Supreme Court ruled that the first-instance court could not ignore testimony adduced during a hearing without having evaluated it. In its decision, the Supreme Court stressed that where there is a disagreement as to the substantive facts of a case, the evaluation of testimony is the cornerstone of any decision. The absence of judgement as to whether a substantial witness has told the truth will render the court's decision incomplete.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recently sentenced Cyprus for the death of a 26-year-old soldier. The ECHR found that the Cypriot authorities' investigation into Athanasios Nicolaou's death had infringed Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Consequently, the ECHR awarded his family €32,000 in non-pecuniary damages.
The government has introduced a variety of tax measures intended to help taxpayers preserve their cash flows and ease the administrative burden on them during the COVID-19 health emergency. In this regard, the deadlines for payment of indirect taxes and those pertaining to tax returns have been extended.
The Shipping Deputy Ministry recently informed the registered owners, charterers, ship managers and representatives of Cyprus-flagged ships of a number of new circular letters issued by the International Maritime Organisation. All owners and managers of Cyprus-flagged ships are advised to take note and implement the measures contained in the circular letters and the interim advice for ship operators prepared at the request of the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety.
In order to support shipping companies and owners of Cyprus-flagged ships and mitigate the difficulties arising from the COVID-19 outbreak, the Shipping Deputy Ministry has extended the deadline for paying tonnage tax for Cyprus ships and the Register of Cyprus Ships annual maintenance fee to 31 May 2020. The ministry has also introduced special arrangements in order to protect public health and limit the spread of the virus.
The Shipping Deputy Ministry recently issued a circular on cyber risk which recognises the need to raise awareness of cyber-risk threats and vulnerabilities to support safe and secure shipping. 'Maritime cyber risk' refers to a measure of the extent to which a technology asset could be threatened by a potential circumstance or event, which may result in shipping-related operational, safety or security failures as a consequence of information or systems being corrupted, lost or compromised.
The law on property rental in Cyprus appears to have been unfairly weighted in favour of tenants for some time, as defaulting tenants have been legally entitled to remain in a property without paying their legally due rent until the hearing of an application for recovery of possession before the Rent Control Court. However, the recent amendment of the Rent (Control) Law seeks to resolve the problem of landlords who have had to deal with such tenants.
The Cyprus-Kazakhstan double tax treaty recently entered into force. The agreement – which is the first of its kind between the two countries and closely based on the latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Model Tax Convention framework – is to be welcomed in view of the possibilities for business, transactional work and business synergies that it may help to create between the two countries.
The Shipping Deputy Ministry has issued Circular 1/2020 informing shipowners, charterers and ship managers that, following the formal assessment of the Cyprus tonnage tax scheme, the European Commission has concluded that Cyprus's relevant scheme is compatible with the internal market and in line with the Guidelines on State Aid to Maritime Transport.
The Deputy Ministry of Shipping recently issued a circular on measures to minimise the risks of coronavirus to seafarers, passengers and others on board ships and directed interested parties to the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO's) Circular Letter 4204, which provides additional guidance on how to minimise the risks to the maritime industry. All owners and managers of ships flying the Cyprus flag are strongly urged to promulgate the information in IMO Circular Letter 4204.
Tackling e-commerce fraud is high on the European Union's political agenda, with significant effort being put into creating new rules to combat value added tax fraud in particular. An important step in this regard has been the introduction of a significant number of changes to the existing rules on e-commerce taxation.
The Supreme Court recently rejected a Greek appellant's request for the annulment of a European arrest warrant (EAW) which had been issued against him in order to investigate alleged criminal offences. Although the court erroneously accepted the appellant's appeal of the ne bis in idem principle (ie, the prohibition of double jeopardy), it rightly concluded that Cyprus was not prevented from executing the EAW by investigating the case against the appellant.