Taxes in Egypt may be divided into two categories. The first one concerns direct taxation of individuals and legal entities on their income or profit. The second involves indirect taxation of goods, services and events. The Egyptian taxation framework is statutory based. Tax administrators are given, under the relevant legislation, few discretionary powers. Courts are primarily responsible for the interpretation of statutes. The nature of the Civil Law system operating in Egypt allows precedent to have an influential but not necessarily a binding effect.
Over the last several years, Egypt has made many changes in its tax system. Some of these changes are merely cosmetic while others are rather substantial. Given this trend, it is advisable to seek up-to-date advice on recent and future changes to the tax law before pursuing commercial plans in Egypt.
The Egyptian corporate tax regime applies to joint stock companies, limited liability companies, partnerships limited by shares, foreign companies and branches of foreign companies whose head office is situated abroad. This tax is also applicable to banks and public sector companies.
As of January 1, 1994, companies are subject to corporate profit tax at a standard rate of 40 percent. Special rates, however, apply to companies engaging in the following activities: (1) Petroleum companies - 40.55 percent; (2) Companies with export activities - 32 percent; and (3) Industrial (manufacturing) companies - 32 percent.
Corporate income tax is based upon taxable profits computed according to generally accepted accounting principles and certain modifications as provided by statute, the most important of which involve depreciation, inventory valuation and inter-company transactions. Capital gains arising from the sale of fixed assets are treated as ordinary profits. Dividends received by resident companies from foreign sources are subject to tax on income from moveable capital at a rate of 32 percent, but foreign taxes paid on such dividends are deductible. Interest derived from securities listed on the Egyptian Stock Exchange is exempt from income tax.
Virtually all legitimate business expenses are deductible including depreciation, other taxes and duties, interest and royalties, bad and doubtful debts, rent, director's remuneration, profit sharing payments to employees, legal expenses, pension and Egyptian state social insurance contributions. Losses may be carried forward and applied against future profits for up to five years.
All operations owned by the same company must be aggregated for reporting purposes. If operations are carried out by separate companies that are owned or controlled by one parent company, however, consolidation is not permitted.
It should be noted that general partnerships and simple limited partnerships are not taxable entities under Egyptian law. The partners in such partnerships, are personally liable for the tax due on their respective shares in the partnership's profit. Partners, therefore, are taxed in the same manner as individuals.
Law No. 187 of 1993, also known as the Unified Tax Law, abolished the general income tax previously levied on individuals pursuant to Tax Law No. 157 of 1981. Under the new Unified Tax Law, individuals, including partners in partnerships, are subject to tax at various rates on income from five sources:
* Income from Movable Capital: This tax is levied at a rate of 32 percent of gross income usually collected through withholding. This category refers to interest (other than interest on deposits), foreign-source dividends (less foreign taxes paid), executive director's fees and attendance fees.
* Income from Immovable Capital: This tax is levied at rates ranging from 20 percent to 48 percent. This category applies to net income derived from land and buildings.
* Commercial and Industrial Profits: This tax is charged on a sliding scale at rates ranging from 20 percent to 48 percent. This category applies to net commercial and industrial profits of enterprises which are not subject to corporate tax.
* Professional Fees: This tax includes rates that range from 20 percent to 48 percent. This category covers the net income of professionals such as engineers, accountants and lawyers.
* Salaries: This is a tax imposed on salaries paid in Egypt or abroad for services performed in Egypt. Taxable salary includes the value of all benefits, apart from housing allowances given to foreign experts. The salary tax is levied at 20 percent on the first £E50,000 of net taxable salary, after deductions and allowances, and 32 percent on the excess.
The general tax on income is progressive and reaches 65 percent for income in excess of £E200,000 per annum. It should be noted that foreign employees in Egypt are subject to this tax unless there is a particular statutory or regulatory provision exempting them from the tax.
Real Estate taxes are levied on the assessed annual rental value of improved and agricultural property at rates ranging between 10 percent to 40 percent.
Most classes of documents, contracts, checks, receipts, bills, letters of guaranty, various banking transactions, transfer of unlisted securities, leases and many other instruments require payment of stamp duties. For example, between £E150-£E300 of stamp duty is charged upon the formation of companies, £E50 is charged for the registration of companies in the Commercial Registrar and £E0.01 is levied on bank checks.
There are no withholding taxes as such in Egypt, apart from scheduled income taxes which are withheld at source in many cases. Dividends distributed by an Egyptian company are not subject to withholding tax. The main instances where taxes are withheld are summarized below.
Tax on income derived from moveable capital is withheld in many cases, including payments to a foreign company that has no branch in Egypt and payments to non-resident individuals. Royalties and technical assistance fees paid to a foreign company with no branch in Egypt are normally subject to the 40 percent corporate income tax rate. The tax is imposed on the net amount after an arbitrary deduction for expenses. Amounts are also withheld on account of taxes due at 10 to 15 percent on the amount payable for professional services, at 3 percent on commercial services and at 10 percent on commissions paid to commercial agents. Lastly, employers must withhold the scheduled tax on salaries and wages from their employee's pay.
Succession tax is imposed on gifts and inheritances at rates between 3 to 15 percent. No tax is charged on an inheritance of less than £E 10,000. Resident foreigners are subject to inheritance and gift taxes on real estate and moveable assets. Non-residents are subject to these taxes only on real estate assets located within Egypt.
A 2 percent development duty is levied on the annual taxable income of individuals and companies that exceeds £E 18,000.
Employers and employees must pay social insurance contributions to the Ministry of Social Insurance and Social Affairs. The social insurance laws do not apply to expatriates. The rate paid is based on the employee's monthly salary and is contributed to at a rate of 26 percent by the employer and 14 percent by the employee.
Law No. 11 of 1991 provides for a general tax on sales. The tax applies to most goods and certain types of services (mainly tourism, telecommunications and entertainment services). Goods imported from abroad for commercial purposes are also subject to the tax. The tax rate for goods ranges from 10 percent (the general rate) up to 50 percent for certain specified goods. The tax rate for services ranges from 5 to 10 percent. The tax is added to the price of the goods or services in question and is payable by the consumer at the point of sale and remitted by the billing entity to the tax authorities.
Egypt has concluded treaties for the prevention of double taxation with a number of countries, including: Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Libya, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Romania, Singapore, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Draft treaties which have not yet been ratified were concluded with Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia and Morocco. It is notable that since Egypt does not levy withholding tax on dividends, its tax treaties provide reduced withholding tax rates only for interest and royalties.
In the absence of a tax treaty, unilateral tax relief is available by way of deduction rather than by a tax credit. A taxpayer who derives foreign-source income which is subject to foreign as well as to Egyptian taxes will be allowed to deduct the amount of foreign tax paid in order to compute the taxpayer's taxable income for Egyptian tax purposes.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)