The European Commission has conditionally approved under EU State aid rules the Maltese tonnage tax scheme for a period of 10 years.
The scheme will ensure a level playing field between Maltese and other Europea
n shipping companies, and will encourage ship registration in Europe.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said "Tonnage tax systems are meant to promote the competitiveness of the EU shipping industry in a global market without unduly distorting competition. I am pleased that Malta committed to adapt its tonnage tax system to achieve this. Moreover, by encouraging the registration of ships in the EU, the scheme will enable the European shipping industry to keep up its high social and environmental standards”.
In 2012, the European Commission opened
an in-depth investigation into the Maltese tonnage tax scheme to examine its compatibility with EU State aid rules. With today's decision, the Commission endorses the Maltese scheme, subject to the amendments introduced by Malta.
The Commission's in-depth investigation found certain features of the original scheme, such as tax exemptions applied to Maltese residents and the broad scope of the scheme extending to vessels not carrying out maritime transport activities, to be in breach of EU State aid rules.
As a result, Malta has committed to introduce a number of changes to its scheme to prevent any discrimination between shipping companies and to avoid undue competition distortions. In particular, Malta agreed to restrict the scope of the scheme to maritime transport and to remove those tax exemptions for shareholders which constitute State aid.
Under the Maltese scheme, a shipping company is taxed on the basis of ship net tonnage (i.e. based on its volume) rather than the actual profits of the company.