The imposition of IMI and IMT for companies directly or indirectly based in so-called tax havens, approved in the State Budget, does not distinguish between the jurisdictions with which Portugal has double taxation (ADT) and information exchange (ATI) agreements from those in which complete opacity prevails in capital movements. Sovereign funds and other investors from Oman, the United Arab Emirates or Qatar as well as investors based in Hong Kong – all included in the list of tax havens but with ADT with Portugal – will be some of the hardest hit. The same happens with the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Mann or Panama, where the funds are established, which aggregate a large part of institutional investors worldwide.
The proposed 2021 state budget, fashioned with strong socialist leanings, has been delivered to the National Assembly for debate and approval before the end of 2020. After three months of negotiations between political parties on the Left, the document focuses on strengthening support for the unemployed, single-parent families, the self-employed and informal domestic workers. In other words, the upcoming budget will focus on the groups hardest hit by the Covit-19 pandemic.
Among several measures meeting the left wing coalition demands, the Government has decided to writeoff old debts to Social Security and recover furloughed railway workers. In addition, the government promises to hire 3,000 non-teaching assistants for schools. Here is an initial preview of some of the key points in the State Budget for 2021.
Social support: facing the pandemic
New extraordinary social support measures are expected to confront the drop in household income. It will be a benefit that will cover employees and domestic workers for one year and sole traders for six months.
Social Security: Farewell to 20-year-old debts
The oldest and smallest debts to Social Security may be forgiven starting next year. If passed, the Government is authorized to forgive amounts when there is a debt for contributions and benefits that are 20 years old or more or that are less than €50 and more than 10 years old.
Unemployment: Benefit to €505
The reference value of installments is €501.16 and the minimum amount is €50. The lower limit for unemployment benefits will increase from the current €438.81 to €505. It is also foreseen that public daycare centres will be free of charge for students in the 2nd income bracket.
Health: Repeated hiring
The Government announced the plan to recruit 4,200 professionals for the National Health Service (SNS). By the end of the first quarter of 2021, the needs for medical professionals will be assessed to determine who may benefit from a risk subsidy of €219.40 payable every other month. Also there will be an investment of €90 million for the sector to improve facilities and equipment in health centres and family health units.
School support staffing
The Government pledges to hire 3,000 professionals, promising a revision of the criteria for calculating non-teaching staffing in schools.
Security forces: €10 million allocated to housing for police
The Government intends to guarantee basic living conditions for police and other security forces who are displaced by their job placement. The plan is to launch an investments of €10 million in housing for police in 2021.
Tourism: Credits for those who spend in hotels
According to the proposal, visitors will accumulate credits during one quarter, amounting to the total VAT incurred in consumption in the sectors of hospitality, culture and restaurants. Subsequently, holiday makers can use this value during the following quarter in consumption in those same sectors.
Finanças will lower IRS withholding to increase disposable income for workers in 2021. These measures should reach 2 million Portuguese taxpayers. However, tax authorities plan to settle accounts in the following year. Also, unemployment benefits will rise €60 for those earning the minimum wage.
Under the final version of the 2020 State Budget, pensions will no longer enjoy full exemption from taxation in Portugal. Instead, pensions will be subject to a flat tax of 10%. A minimum levy of €7,500 had been proposed, but this measure was eliminated in the final version of the Budget.
The Government is studying incentives for migrating short-term local lodging to affordable long-term leases. It is not yet known how the Government plans to accomplish this objective. It may become possible to change the fiscal regime that requires the payment of capital gains when the property is no longer assigned to a professional activity and returns to the sphere of the owner.
The Stability Program for 2019-23 anticipates €31 million in additional tax revenues from the new maximum tax bracket for AIMI, applicable to Ratable Values (“VPT”) above €2 million. The Additional to Municipal Property Tax was first created in 2017 targeting luxury properties. Beyond the standard “IMI” assessment, Companies are charged AIMI at a rate of 0.4% on the sum of the Rateable Values of these properties. Residences held by entities in tax havens pay 7.5%. In the case of individual ownership, an AIMI rate of 0.7% is applied on “VPT” totals above €600,000 (or double this amount for married and cohabiting couples who opt for joint “IRS” declarations). When the “VPT” values exceed €1 million, the tax rate increases to 1%. The new bracket, created in the recent State Budget to be applied for the first time in 2019, foresees an AIMI tax rate of 1.5%, applicable to “VPT” amounts above €2 million.
The ink is barely dry on changes to the Local Lodging regime and the ruling Socialist Party is moving forward with proposed amendments in the next year’s State Budget. According to the contemplated update, Local Lodging units should have a minimum coverage of €75,000 a year per claim. The recently approved legislation is vague concerning the amount of liability insurance required.
Returning ex-residents will benefit from a 50% exclusion on earnings from salaried employment (Category A) and business and professional income (Category B). Only half of the income will be taxed under the proposed changes in IRS rules. According to the State Budget Proposal for 2019, this regime will apply for five years from the year in which the citizen meets the eligibility conditions. Any entity responsible for withholding income earned by returning former residents will be subject to a withholding tax on half of the attributed income, thus ensuring full application of the tax break.
One of the flagship measures of the upcoming 2019 State Budget is intended to encourage emigrants to return to Portugal by granting a 50% discount on their “IRS” over the following 3 to 5 years. In addition, the proposal allows for deductions of associated expenses, such as the cost of the return trip and housing expenses. As part of a package of incentives targeting the relocation of young professionals back to Portugal, the proposal will embrace all those who left the country by 2015 and returning in 2019 or 2020.