Shipping Advantages

Maltese Shipping – The Tonnage Tax System and Advantages for Shipping Companies

Mediterranean centre of maritime excellence. Currently Malta has the largest shipping register in Europe and the sixth largest in the world. In addition, Malta has become a world leader in terms of commercial yacht registration.

In order to avoid the risk of shipping companies relocating or flagging to low-tax countries outside the EU, the European Commission’s 2004 Guidelines on State Aid to Maritime Transport (commercial shipping activities) was introduced to allow Member States to implement financial benefits for shipping companies. One of the most important benefits was to replace traditional methods of taxation with a tonnage tax.

In December 2017, the European Commission approved the Maltese tonnage tax regime for a period of 10 years, following a review of its compatibility with EU State Aid Rules.

The Maltese Shipping Tonnage Tax System

Under the Malta Tonnage Tax System, tax is dependent on the tonnage of the vessel or fleet belonging to a particular ship-owner or ship-manager. Only companies that are active in maritime transport are eligible under the Maritime Guidelines.

Standard corporate tax rules do not apply to shipping activities in Malta. Instead shipping operations are subject to an annual tax consisting of a registration fee and annual tonnage tax. The rate of tonnage tax reduces according to the age of the vessel.

  • As an example, a trading ship measuring 80 metres, with 10,000 gross tonnage, built in the year 2000, will pay a fee of €6,524 on registration and €5,514 annual tax thereafter.

The smallest category of ship is up to a net tonnage of 2,500 and the largest, and most expensive, are ships over 50,000 net tonnage. Charges are reduced for ships in the 0-5 and 5-10 year old age categories respectively and are greatest for those 25-30 years old.

Taxation of Shipping Activities in Malta

As detailed above:

  • Income derived from shipping activities by a licensed shipping organisation is exempt from income tax.
  • Income derived from ship management activities by a ship manager is exempt from income tax.

In all other circumstances:

  • Shipping companies incorporated in Malta are taxed on their worldwide income and capital gains.
  • Shipping companies not incorporated in Malta, but where control and management are exercised in Malta, are taxed on local income and capital gains and on foreign source income remitted to Malta.
  • Shipping companies not incorporated in Malta and where management and control are not exercised in Malta, are taxed on income and capital gains arising in Malta.

Ship Management Activities

Following a European Commission ruling, Malta has amended its tonnage tax law.

Ship management activities are now included in the tonnage tax system. This means that ship managers are allowed to pay a tonnage tax which is equivalent to a percentage of the tonnage tax paid by the owners and/or charterers of the ships managed. Any income derived by a ship manager from ship management activities is deemed to be income derived from shipping activities and is therefore exempt from income tax.

Ship management organisations can benefit from the tonnage tax measures, provided that the following conditions are met:

  • must be a ship management organisation established in the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA);
  • have assumed responsibility for either technical and/or crew management of a ship;
  • must comply with the international standards and requirements of the EU;
  • must specifically include shipping activities in their objects and must register with the Registrar General accordingly;
  • maintain separate accounts, clearly distinguishing the payments by and receipts of the ship manager with respect to ship management activities from those not connected to such activity;
  • the ship manager opts to pay an annual tonnage tax on all ships;
  • At least two-thirds of the tonnage of the ships that the ship manager is providing ship management activities for must be managed in the EU and EEA;
  • the tonnage that the ship manager provides ship management activities for must satisfy the flag-link requirement.

Maltese Tonnage Tax Eligibility

Tonnage tax is applied to the activities of a shipping company as follows:

  • core revenues from shipping activities;
  • certain ancillary revenues that are closely connected to shipping activities (capped at a maximum 50% of a ship’s operating revenue); and
  • revenues from towage and dredging (subject to certain conditions).

Maltese shipping organisations must register with the Finance Minister by submitting the name of the organisation, the registered office address and the name and tonnage of the ship it wishes to own or operate. The vessel must be declared a ‘Tonnage Tax Ship’ or a ‘Community Ship’, with a minimum net tonnage of 1,000 and be entirely owned, chartered, managed, administered or operated by a shipping organisation.

A shipping company can only benefit from the Maltese Tonnage Tax scheme if it has a significant part of its fleet flying the flag of a European Economic Area (EEA) Member State.

Additional Reasons to Consider Ship Registration in Malta

There are a number of additional reasons to consider ship registration in Malta:

  • The Malta registry is on the Paris MOU and Tokyo MOU white lists.
  • Vessels registered under the Malta Flag have no trading restrictions and are given preferential treatment in many ports.
  • Registration of vessels under the Maltese flag takes place in two stages. A vessel is provisionally registered for a six-month period. This is an easy and fast process. During this provisional registration period the owner is required to submit additional documentation and then the vessel is permanently registered under the Maltese flag.
  • There is an exemption from stamp duty in Malta on the registration and/or sale of a ship, shares relating to a licensed shipping organisation and the registration of a mortgage relating to a ship.

Additional Information

If you would like further information regarding the Malta Tonnage Tax System or the registration of a ship and/or yacht in Malta, please contact Jonathan Vassallo at the Dixcart office in Malta: advice.malta@dixcart.com or your usual Dixcart contact.

Pleasure Boats in Malta

Additional Reasons to Consider Malta for Yachting Solutions

Malta: Recent History – the Marine Sector

Over the past decade, Malta has consolidated its status as an international Mediterranean centre of maritime excellence. Currently Malta has the largest shipping register in Europe and the sixth largest in the world. In addition, Malta has become a world leader for commercial yacht registration.

As well as its strategic position, in the centre of the Mediterranean, one of the main contributors to Malta’s success is the business-friendly environment adopted by the Maltese authorities. The authorities are approachable and flexible in their practices, while at the same time meticulously follow a rigid framework of guidelines and regulations, and this has created a cutting edge for Malta within this sector.

Additional Benefits in Terms of VAT – Maltese Registered Yachts

The Malta Authorities recently announced further attractive measures, which have already been put in place, regarding the importation of yachts to Malta.

Yachts, intended for commercial use, can be imported into the EU via Malta, for  relevant VAT and customs procedures to be undertaken.  Subsequently, the yacht can then be chartered, and can sail freely within EU waters.

Apart from the already inherent attraction for yachts to be imported into Malta, due to the low VAT rate of 18%, yachts used for commercial chartering can benefit from VAT deferral. The deferral mechanism has now been made more attractive as follows:

  • Deferment of VAT on the importation of commercial yachts, by Maltese owning entities having a Maltese VAT registration, without the requirement for the importing entity to set up a bank guarantee;
  • Deferment of VAT on importation of commercial yachts, by EU owning entities having a Maltese VAT registration, provided that the company appoints a VAT agent in Malta, without the requirement for the importing entity to set up a bank guarantee;
  • Deferment of VAT on importation of commercial yachts by non–EU owning entities, as long as the importing entity sets up a bank guarantee for VAT, equivalent to 0.75% of the value of the yacht, capped at €1 million.

Dixcart: Yacht Registration Experience 

Our office in Malta has extensive experience and can assist clients with all of the commercial aspects in relation to yacht ownership:

  • Yacht ownership structures
  • Importation of yachts
  • Flag registrations
  • Deferment applications
  • Crew payrolls
  • Day-to-day administration
  • VAT registration in multiple jurisdictions
  • Resident agent services
  • Tax and VAT advice
  • Accounting and secretarial services

Assistance 

The Dixcart office in Malta has professionals who can assist your business with all aspects of yacht registration in  Malta and can help ensure that you take advantage of the specific VAT deferment, applicable to your circumstances. Please speak to your usual Dixcart contact, or alternatively, please email: advice.malta@dixcart.com.

Isle of Man: A First-Choice jurisdiction for Non-EU Superyacht Owners

The Isle of Man has a long history of maritime structuring, and Superyacht planning in particular. In recent times, there has been a growing trend in the use of Isle of Man Corporate vehicles for the ownership of Non-EU clients’ Superyachts.

In this short article we will take a flying look at why the Isle of Man has become a first-choice jurisdiction for Non-EU Superyacht Owners. Although there are specific planning opportunities depending on the owner’s jurisdiction of Tax Residency, we will take a focus on the more general advantage that Temporary Admission offers.

1. About The Isle of Man

The Isle of Man is a self-governing Crown Dependency, possessing its own Government which sets the island’s laws and tax regime. The Isle of Man offers a tax-friendly environment for corporate entities, making it a prime location for establishing Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for luxury asset holding and more. Notably, the island features zero rates for Corporate Tax and Capital Gains Tax.

In almost all facets the Isle of Man is independent from the United Kingdom – almost all. Importantly, as a Crown Dependency, the UK is responsible for the island’s international affairs. Prior to Brexit, the Isle of Man had a special relationship with the European Union that allowed the island to take part in the EU Customs Union and the Single Market enjoyed by Member States.

When the UK left the EU, the island’s special relationship also came to an end, meaning the Isle of Man also lost its unique access to the EU Customs Union and Single Market.

Whilst the end of the special relationship undoubtedly had mixed results, one positive outcome was access to a VAT importation procedure known as Temporary Admission. Temporary Admission applies to the importation of a wide range of goods, including Superyachts for our purposes.

You can read more about why you should consider the Isle of Man for Yachting Post-Brexit here.

2. Temporary Admission Overview

Superyachts originating from outside the EU must be imported into the Customs Union, which can subject them to VAT at the local standard rate. This would result in a VAT liability based on the vessel’s value at the time of importation at the prevailing rate within the country of importation. Therefore, this represents a significant cost for owners of boats in excess of 24m+ in length. However, Temporary Admission (TA) can help mitigate this for private yachts.

The Istanbul Convention on TA is a Customs procedure and allows defined goods, such as means of transportation like Superyachts, to be brought into the Customs Territory with total or partial relief from import duties and taxes, subject to meeting certain conditions. For example, the goods must be imported for ‘Specific Purpose’ and are intended for re-exportation within a specified period (Article CUSTMS.16(1)).

Where TA is applicable, owners established outside of the EU who are operating private Superyachts are exempt from VAT on import, albeit Customs Duty relief varies, dependent on the jurisdiction’s classification of the vessel and its Specific Purpose for being imported.


We have provided a quick reference diagram that covers the headline details and requirements below:

Superyacht Holding Structure for Temporary Admission

Rarely is it a good idea to own a luxury asset directly, especially in the instance of a Superyacht or Aircraft. Utilising a corporate holding entity is not only helpful for mitigating indirect tax implications, but also ringfencing the legal liability of financing and operating the craft.

You can read more about the benefits of utilising an Isle of Man SPV for the ownership and financing of your Superyacht here.

As corporate ownership is the preferred method of ownership in 99% of cases, the domicile of the company will be particularly relevant if cruising in EU waters is desirable. Therefore, the owner will need to incorporate a holding entity in any Non-Eu jurisdiction to utilise Temporary Admission.

Note that the jurisdiction of establishment in this case does not necessarily have to be the same as the chosen flag of the vessel. You can read more about the various popular shipping / yacht registries here.

The Isle of Man presents a neutral tax base and stable legislative environment that is well-regarded globally for its professional services and approach to regulation. Where the Isle of Man is elected for the holding vehicle, typically either an Isle of Man Companies Act 2006 Company and/or an Isle of Man Limited Partnership incorporated with Limited Liability are the vehicles of choice. You can read more about these corporate vehicles and more in this article.

You can find some relevant case studies that cover the use of Isle of Man corporate structuring for Superyacht holding here.

3. Your Trust & Corporate Service Provider

Choosing the right Trust & Corporate Service Provider (TCSP) for your Superyacht holding vehicle is a crucial decision that requires the careful consideration of several key factors. Below you will find a short list of questions to help ensure that you select a provider that aligns with your objectives.

Is the Trust and Corporate Service Provider Well Established?

Dixcart Isle of Man has been providing Corporate Services to the owners of High Net Worth Individuals and Family Offices for over 30 years and are exceptionally well positioned to assist clients seeking to undertake corporate structuring regarding their Superyachts.

Does the Trust and Corporate Service Provider Have Professionally Qualified and Experienced Staff and Will you Have a Dedicated Point of Contact?

Our qualified accountants, trustees, chartered Secretaries, compliance professionals and more will always be on hand to assist. Due to our low levels of staff turnover, you can be confident that the relationships you build with our team will be long lasting. The Directors appointed to your holding structure will be your dedicated points of contact from beginning to end.

Does the Trust and Corporate service provider have a Transparent Fee Structure?

As most admin and compliance carried out by Trust and Corporate Service Providers is delivered on a ‘time-spent’ basis (i.e. at hourly rates), you need to ensure that the fees are transparent and that you will never be billed without understanding what it is you are paying for. At Dixcart, we prioritise transparency and undertake regular reviews to ensure a fair and open relationship with our clients and advisers. We always provide advance notice and secure client approval before taking any fee-related actions, as we believe trust is essential in nurturing sustainable relationships.

Does the Trust & Corporate Service Provider have robust compliance and regulatory standards?

Whilst it may not initially seem like the highest priority, it cannot be understated just how important the internal governance and compliance controls of the Trust and Corporate Service Provider are. This essential work is the backbone of any risk management, providing the front line of defence when it comes to any legal or tax challenges. Additionally, as the Trust & Corporate Service Provider will likely have a number of clients, you will want to ensure that their working practices are robust and in line with best practices. For example, where the TCSP runs into regulatory issues it can lead to clients having to search for a new service provider – which can be a costly and time-consuming job. At Dixcart we identify compliance as a competitive advantage, simply because it means we’re here for the long run. Our clients can rest assured that all activity is undertaken with a view to true sustainability.

Does the Trust & Corporate Service Provider have access to a body of industry professionals?

Dixcart Isle of Man have cultivated robust partnerships with leading experts across various relevant fields in the yachting industry, ranging from tax and legal planning to yacht construction, yacht management and more. This means that no matter what stage you are at, whether a new build or existing structure, we can assist clients in achieving their objectives.

4. More Than Just Superyachts

This last section is just to simply note that, where we can undertake Superyacht structuring for clients and their advisers, there are often other planning opportunities that we can assist with.

For instance, where the client is living in a jurisdiction that is not their country of origin or there is some form of international investment being undertaken, there can be significant benefits to utilising an Isle of Man Trust & Corporate Services Provider, such as Dixcart.

You can read more about all of the ways in which a Trust & Corporate Service Provider can augment your worldwide activities.

Get in Touch

If you require further information regarding the use of Isle of Man corporate structures for the purpose of holding assets such as a Superyacht, please feel free to get in touch with David Walsh at Dixcart: advice.iom@dixcart.com

Alternatively, you can connect with David on Linkedin.

Dixcart Management (IOM) Limited is Licensed by the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority