Russia’s Deoffshorization Law and Cyprus companies

Cyprus/March 2015

Cyprus companies have a long history of presence in Russian structures. The Russian Deoffshorization Law and more specific the introduction of Controlled Foreign Company (“CFC”) rules which was set to prevent the shift of profits in preferential tax jurisdictions and re-route funds back to Russian could also shudder the domination of Cyprus companies in such structures.

Nonetheless, as it is construed from the aforementioned legislation, nothing is black and white and each case must be viewed on its own merits. In the same line, the Russian Ministry of Finance has recently clarified the criteria based on which the profits of a Cyprus company shall be exempted from Russian taxation. The Ministry has clarified that companies whose large majority of income (more than 80%) is active shall be exempted. However, the active companies’ test is not expected to be straightforward, with the list of passive income to include dividends, interest and royalties as well as rental and lease income and income from the provisions of consulting, marketing, legal and other services.

Further, the Ministry of Finance notes that the effective tax rate test whereby companies registered in jurisdictions which exchange information with Russia and impose an effective tax rate equal or higher than 75% of the average tax rate that would have been imposed in accordance to the Russian Tax legislation, must also be considered for the purpose of determining whether the profits of the Cyprus company are exempted from Russian taxation. The exchange of information for tax purposes between the two jurisdictions is accomplished based on the Russian – Cyprus Income and Capital Tax Treaty currently in force.

The various international tax developments taking place have also urged Cyprus to re-examine its tax regime in order to catch up and possible radical changes may be on the horizon. Legislative changes that are expected to reaffirm Cyprus’s attractiveness as an international business center are expected to be presented to the Council of Ministers and be soon on the way.

Katerina A. Charalambous
+357 22 699 222