Maritime tax consultancy plays an important role in the maritime sector. Due to the excellent education in tax law and tax economics at Dutch universities, the quality of Dutch tax advisors is very high. All ‘big four’ firms have an (head) office in Rotterdam with focus on the maritime sector. Next to this there are numerous specialised boutique firms advising on issues concerning the maritime sector and international tax planning.
Fiscal facility, tonnage tax
The Netherlands has within its fiscal law a special facility for shipping companies, the so-called tonnage tax. This fiscal instrument was introduced in the Netherlands in 1996. The Netherlands was the first EU country with a ‘new style’ tonnage tax. This type of tax was codified within the EU ‘State Aid Guidelines to Maritime Transport’. Many countries within the EU have followed this Dutch practice. In the tonnage tax regime the tax to be paid is determined on basis of the net tonnage of the ships exploited instead of on the regular profit. Depending on the actual profit generated this may lead to a very low effective tax rate. We have compared the tonnage tax regimes of several European countries and the Dutch system is especially for larger tonnage ships the most attractive.
Next to the specialist knowledge available via tax advisors, the Dutch Tax Authority also has a team of maritime specialists. The Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KVNR), the Dutch Tax Authority and tax advisors have frequent meetings on specific issues for the maritime sector. Furthermore the Dutch Tax Authority is open for ex-ante discussions on the fiscal position and this can be turned into written agreements.
International tax planning
Since the 1990s the Dutch Tax Authority has a special team located in Rotterdam that deals with rulings. This team discusses agreements on transfer pricing (APA’s) and fiscal positions (Advance Tax Rulings, ATR’s). The Dutch Tax Authority has proven to be a reliable and stable partner.
Shipping is an international business. Dutch tax advisors have a great deal of experience on international tax planning. The Netherlands offers an exemption for dividends of foreign participations. Also there is no withholding tax on outflowing interest payments and royalties. Furthermore the Netherlands has an extensive network of tax treaties to avoid double taxation. In most of these Dutch tax treaties there are specific conditions concerning profits of shipping activities. When it comes to international tax planning the Netherlands offers a lot of opportunities.
Dutch tax advisors are internationally renown for their hands-on advice. Many Rotterdam based tax firms have clustered their specialist knowledge on tax affairs and the maritime sector. Within RMSC there is extensive exchange of knowledge and experiences. Also there is joint representation of member interests at governmental bodies.