COMPANY FORMATION SERVICES IN MALTA
MALTA – COMPANY INFORMATION
Malta Company Information
Key Corporate Features
Type of Company: Private Limited Liability Company
Political Stability : Good
Common or Civil Law : Civil
Disclosure of Beneficial Owner : No (optional)
Migration of Domicile Permitted : Yes
Corporate taxation : Yes but credits/refunds may apply to shareholder(s)
Language of Name : Latin Alphabet
Minimum Number of Members : Two/One
Minimum Number of Directors : One
Corporate Directors Permitted : Yes
Company Secretary Required : Yes
Usual Authorised Capital : €1,250 (min)
Registered Office/Agent : Yes
Company Secretary : Yes
Local Directors : No
Local Meetings : No
Government Register of Directors : Yes
Government Register of Members : Yes
Annual Return : Yes
Submit Accounts : Yes (audited)
Recurring Government Costs
Minimum Annual Tax/License Fee : N/A
Annual Return Filing Fee : €170 (min)
The Republic of Malta is an archipelago consisting of three inhabited islands Malta, Gozo and Comino. The Maltese islands are situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea about 100 km South of Italy.
Malta ’s strategic geographical location played a decisive role in its history and continues to play a very important part in its economical, political and cultural development and prosperity today. Having implemented a sound legislative framework over the past decade, Malta’s accession as a member of the European Union has stimulated significant developments in the islands’ economy, brought about principally by a boost of inward direct investment into the country. With its highly educated workforce and the comparatively lower cost of professional services when compared with other EU centres, Malta has become firmly established as a reputable business and financial centre offering attractive business solutions for individuals and international corporations alike.
The population of the Islands is approximately 400,000. Maltese society is homogenous having its own identity and language. The natural population growth has in recent years been supplemented by a net inflow of Maltese who had previously emigrated to America, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Malta boasts a rich history of tradition and culture lavishly woven by the many civilisations that have swept the Mediterranean leaving their imprints on those small islands. The first evidence of life dates back as far back as the Neolithic age, when early settlers some 6000 years ago left evidence of their magnificent temples of worship and burial grounds. After these, new faces belonging to new civilisations appeared, all leaving their indelible traits: Phoenicians; Carthaginians; Romans; Arabs; Aragonese; the Knights of St. John; the French under Napoleon Bonaparte and finally the British.
The British stayed for more than a century and a half and during this time set up a prominent naval and military base for their Mediterranean fleet and their influence, particularly on the infrastructure of the country, its legal system and its civil service, remains.
Malta obtained its independence in 1964 but retained a NATO military base, which turned out to constitute the Island's main source of revenue. Ten years later it became a Republic and in 1979 it closed the military base.
Malta is a sovereign independent state enjoying traditional political, economic and social stability. It enjoys a parliamentary democracy based on the British model. It joined the EU in May 2004 and forms an integral part of Western Europe both politically and culturally. Malta is a member of the United Nations, of the Council of Europe and of the Commonwealth. Malta maintains friendly relations with all countries through its policy of non-alignment.
The President is the titular head of the state, while executive powers rest with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Parliament is composed of 65 representatives elected every five years. Based on the English juridical system, the judiciary has a tradition of independence that dates back hundreds of years. The supreme law of the country is its written constitution, which expressly incorporates the fundamental principles of Balance of Powers, the Rule of Law, the Independence of the Judiciary and the Human Rights.
Infrastructure and Economy
With the closure of the military base in 1979, it became imperative for the country to launch a series of development programmes to re-orientate the Islands’ economy.
A strong infrastructure and promotional drive basing itself on price competition and on high standards of tourism facilities turned tourism in to Malta's primary source of foreign exchange, with more than a million tourists visiting Malta each year. Malta's natural harbours host one of the most renowned dry-docks in the Mediterranean and a shipbuilding yard.
The geography of the Island has always provided natural attractive safe marinas for yachts coming from all over the world. Manpower is the most precious resource in Malta. Human resources development is fundamental to the Island's economic progress, which is why great stress is placed on an enlightened education system and the training and preparation of the labour force to levels required by modern industry and sophisticated technology.
Following an overhaul of Malta’s financial legislation in the early 1990s, Malta has obtained international recognition as a stable financial services centre of repute. Today, Malta’s regulatory framework for financial services is fully consolidated and aligned to internationally recognized standards. Its onshore regime provides a seamless framework that supports both domestic and international economic activity. The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) is Malta’s single regulator for banking, investment services, insurance and other financial services activity.
The regulator’s accessibility and its pro-active approach to addressing market developments have proved to be a highly successful formula.
The Maltese financial services industry has witnessed a rapid growth over the last decade, with over 6,000 people currently employed in the financial services sector (excluding law firms and accountancy firms), contributing a significant 12% to the country’s GDP. The Maltese Government continues to evaluate and update relevant legislation and regulations, keeping it abreast of developments in the industry with a view to maintaining Malta’s competitiveness in this sector.
Malta joined the 2004 EU enlargement along with nine other countries. Several state-controlled corporations have been sold and markets have been liberalised in anticipation of Malta’s EU membership, and the Government’s remaining participations in the private sector continue to be privatised.
Reserves for foreign currency per head are amongst the highest in the world. The Maltese Lira is strong and stable, and in 2005 has been pegged at a fixed rate to the Euro. With more than 100 years experience behind them, Malta's banks are continually expanding and improving their services. Financial institutions have been streamlined to keep abreast of transformations that are taking place in what has become a global marketplace. Exchange controls have also been removed to facilitate the free movement of capital across Malta’s national borders, in line with EU legislation.
The Maltese government entered the ERM framework II in May 2005, and adopted the Euro as the country's currency on 1 January 2008. Malta adopted regulations to implement the Schengen Treaty for Seaports on 21st December 2007 with airports to follow on 29th March 2008.
There are several daily flights to Malta from all major European cities.
The Republic's official languages are Maltese and English; all Maltese citizens speak the latter fluently. Business correspondence is mainly in English. Most of the population is also fluent in Italian.
Euro from 1 st January 2008.
Exchange controls have been abolished since 19 April 2004, save for certain restrictions for transactions involving non-residents from non-EU/non-EEA countries.
Type of Law
Malta is a Civil Law jurisdiction, however, all modern legislation including company, tax and maritime laws are modelled on their UK counterparts.
Principal Corporate Legislation
Companies Act, 1995; Trusts and Trustees Act, 1988; Malta Financial Services Authority Act, 1994; Investment Services Act, 1994; Banking Act, 1994; Financial Institutions Act, 1994; Financial Markets Act, 2002 and the Business Promotion Act, 1988.
Procedure to Incorporate
This entails the deposit of the paid-up share capital into a bank account and the filing of the Memorandum and Articles of Association with the Registrar of Companies. Non-EU/ non-EEA resident shareholders are also required to submit a bank reference besides an identification document for the immediate shareholder (e.g. passport copy or certificate of incorporation).
Restrictions on Trading
There are no specific restrictions on trading imposed on Maltese Companies. However, it must be noted that companies involved in particular spheres of economic activity may require a license before commencing their activities. Such activities would include investment services, insurance business, other financial services and also gaming activities, to mention a few.
Companies incorporated prior to 31st December 2006 and having the status of an International Trading Company (ITC) are subject to the restriction that no trading activities can be conducted with persons resident in Malta, except as provided by the Income Tax Act.
The Income Tax Act specifically allows the following activities to be undertaken by an ITC:
engage in purchases for export of goods manufactured, assembled or processed in Malta, provided that such purchases are not made from a person who owns directly or indirectly more than 15% of the ordinary share capital of the said International Trading Company.
trade with companies registered in Malta under the Malta Financial Services Authority Act 1994;
trade with other International Trading Companies;
manage Maltese companies whose business is restricted to affiliated insurance (or “captive insurance”) carried on exclusively with non-residents;
provide management, administration or other services to collective investment schemes resident in Malta where such schemes are marketed exclusively outside Malta and are licensed or exempt from licensing under the Investment Services Act;, 1994
provide ship management services provided that objects are limited to activities relating to the management of ships which are not less than one thousand tons and which are engaged in the carriage of goods or passengers.
Powers of Company
A Maltese company may exercise all those powers outlined in the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Company.
Language of Legislation and Corporate Documents
Registered Office Required
Must be maintained in Malta.
Shelf Companies Available
Time Scale to Incorporate
Three to five working days.
Anything identical or similar to the name of a company already incorporated or reserved; anything that in the opinion of the Registrar of Companies is offensive or otherwise undesirable.
Language of Name
Names can be expressed in any language using the Latin alphabet .
Suffixes to Denote Limited Liability
The name of the company must end with the word "Limited" or "Ltd" in the case of private limited companies and “p.l.c.” in the case of a public limited company.
Disclosure of Beneficial Ownership to Authorities
The identity of the beneficial owners of a Maltese company may remain confidential if a trustee company authorised by the Malta Financial Services Authority is engaged to act as shareholder on behalf of the underlying beneficial shareholders.
This confidentiality is maintained as long as the company and its beneficial owners are not involved in any money laundering activity.
Authorised and Issued Share Capital
The minimum authorised share capital is of €1,250. The minimum issued share capital is €1,250, 20% paid up. The share capital may be denominated in any convertible currency.
Classes of Shares Permitted
A company may have different classes of shares.
A one-time minimum fee of €350, for an authorised share capital of up to €4,700. The minimum annual return filing fee is of €170 with effect from the second year.
Financial Statement Required
Annual returns and audited accounts.
A minimum of one who need not be a Maltese resident. Corporate directors are also allowed.
The secretary is to be an individual and may be a non-resident of Malta.
The minimum number of shareholders is normally two; however a "single member company" may also be registered, subject to the satisfaction of certain requirements.
Full Imputation System
Malta has always operated, and still operates, a full imputation system of taxation. Since the 1990 the rate of corporate tax has been set at 35% and upon a distribution of dividends by Maltese companies, its shareholders are entitled to a credit of the tax paid by the company on the distributed profits.
As a result, if the tax rate at the shareholder's level is less than 35% , the shareholder, whether resident in Malta or not, is entitled to a refund of the difference between the tax chargeable on him/her and the tax paid by the company on the profits out of which the dividends were distributed.
Allocation of a company's profits to the individual Tax Accounts.
The distributable profits of a company registered in Malta (which includes Maltese branches of foreign companies) are required by tax law to be allocated to five different accounts, or reserves, namely:
The Immovable Property Account consisting of a company's distributable profits that have suffered tax and that are derived, directly or indirectly, from immovable property situated in Malta;
The Final Tax Account which incorporates a company's distributable profits normally arising from transactions that are taxed at source under a final witholding tax regime, such as investment income, certain property transfers and profits that have been relieved from tax under Malta's incentive legislation;
The Foreign Income Account consisting of a company's distributable profits arising from overseas income, such as dividends, capital gains on disposal of shares and property, interest, royalties and similar income and rents. This account also comprises profits of banks and financial institutions from investments, assets and liabilities situated outside Malta, profits of insurance companies on risks situated outside Malta, profits attributable to a permanent establishment situated outside Malta and dividends paid out of the Foreign Income Account of another company registered in Malta;
The Maltese Taxed Account which comprises a company's distributable profits from Maltese sources which includes profits on international trading activities;
The Untaxed Account into which are allocated the amounts not allocated to the other four accounts. This is the only account which may have a negative amount allocated to it.
Double Taxation Relief
Maltese operates an ordinary credit system for relieving double taxation. There are four different types of double taxation relief, namely:
Double Taxation Relief in respect of tax charged in a country with which Malta has a double tax treaty. Generally, the tax payable in the treaty country on income that is also subject to tax in Malta is allowed as a credit against that person's Maltese company.
Commonwealth Income Tax Relief is a tax credit afforded to relieve double taxation where Commonwealth income tax has been paid on the same income that is subject to tax in Malta. In practice, this type of relief is rarely, if ever, used.
Unilateral Relief is a system of relieving double taxation that operates in exactly the same way as double taxation relief. Tax payable in a country with which Malta does not have a double tax treaty is allowed as a credit against the Malta tax payable on that income. Underlying tax suffered by the overseas company on the distributed profits may also be claimed as a credi insofar as the overseas company paying the dividend is owned, directly or indirectly, as to more than 10% by the Maltese company.
Flat rate foreign tax credit is available to a Maltese company in respect of income allocated to its Foreign Income Account. This method of relieving double taxation is available if none of the other three systems applies. A Maltese company's income from overseas, net of any foreign tax, if any, is grossed up by 25% and after the deduction of any expenses, tax is chargeable at 35% of the resultant net profit. The amount by which the income is initially grossed up is allowed as a credit against the tax due.
Refunds to shareholders of tax paid by Maltese companies
The payment of a dividend by a Maltese registered company to a shareholder entitles such shareholder to a full or partial refund of the tax paid by the Maltese company on the profits out of which the dividend was distributed.
A tax refund arises from the full imputation system of taxation referred to above. In addition, another entitlement to a tax refund arises on certain distributions made by Maltese companies, in certain circumstances as explained below:
No entitlement to tax refunds arises on dividends paid from the company's profits allocated to the Final Tax Account or the Immovable Property Account;
An entitlement to a refund of 6/7ths of the tax paid by the Maltese registered company arises when the dividend is paid from the company's Foreign Income Account or Maltese Taxed Account;
An entitlement to a refund of 5/7ths of the tax paid by the Maltese registered company arises when the dividend is paid from company's Foreign Income Account or Maltese Taxed Account where such dividends constitute the distribution of passive interest or royalties;
An entitlement to a refund of 2/3rds of the Malta tax paid arises where the dividend is paid from the Maltese registered company's Foreign Income Account on which the company distributing the dividend has claimed relief of double taxation;
An entitlement of a full refund of the tax paid by the Maltese registered company arises when the dividend is paid out of profits derived from a 'participating holding' or the disposal of such holding.
Participating Holdings and Participation Exemption
A holding by a Maltese company in a non-resident company qualifies as a 'participaing holding' when the Maltese company holds directly at least 10% of the equity shares in the non-resident company.
A 'participating holding' also arises when the Maltese company invests a minimum of approximately €1.16 million in the non-resident company and the investment is held for at least 183 days; when the Maltese company is entitled to appoint a director in the non-resident company; where the holding is for the furtherance of the Maltese company's business and other similar situations.
With effect from 2007, the income or gains derived by a Maltese registered company from a 'participating holding' is exempt from tax in Malta. This exemption applies if any one of the following conditions is satisfied in respect of the foreign company;
It is resident or incorporated in a country or territory which forms part of the European Union; or
It is subject to foreign tax at a rate of 15% or more; or
It does not have more than 50% of its income derived from 'passive interest or royalties'.
If none of the above conditions is satisfied, then both of the following conditions have to be satisfied for the participation exemption to apply:
the equity holding by the company resident in Malta in the company not resident in Malta is not a portfolio investment and for this purpose where the company concerned derived more than 50% of its income from portfolio investments it shall be deemed to be a portfolio investment; and
the company not resident in Malta has been subject to any foreign tax at a rate of tax which is more than 5%.
Payment of tax and refunds
Tax is payable by a Maltese company on profits allocated to the foreign income account and Maltese taxed account by not later than sixty days from the end of the month in which a dividend is paid. If no dividend is paid, tax is payable on profits allocated to the Foreign Income Account within eighteen months from the end of the accounting period.
A tax refund due from the Maltese revenue authorities is payable to the shareholders within 14 days from the end of the month in which a valid refund claim is submitted, provided the company has paid the tax on the distributed profits.
No tax is withheld on the payment of dividends by a Maltese registered company to its shareholders, whether such shareholders are resident or non-resident in Malta.
Non-resident persons are exempt from tax on interest or royalties accruing or derived from Malta except where such interest or royalties are derived from a permanent establishment that the non-resident has in Malta. As a result no withholding tax is levied on the payment of interest or royalties to non-residents.
Maltese companies trading from Malta may be registered for VAT purposes and the VAT prefix will be 'MT'.
Double Taxation Agreements
Malta 's wide network of double tax agreements as well as other methods for relieving double tax on cross border transactions provide an excellent base for establishing tax efficient structures including international trading and holding company activities.