The Participation Exemption

Generally double taxation treaties provide that any gains derived by a Maltese company from the sale of shares in a foreign subsidiary are taxable in Malta. However, the participation exemption regime grants a 100% exemption to companies registered in Malta which such capital gains from the disposal of a participating holding.

More importantly, the participation exemption regime exempts from tax any dividends derived by a Maltese registered company from a foreign participating holding which is not in the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for Tax purposes.

The tests which must be satisfied in order for the participation exemption to apply:

Test 1

The dividend income or capital gains must be derived from a participating holding which is generally a non-resident company (including some types of partnerships and branches) in which the Maltese registered company holds equity shares and:

  • owns at least 5% of the equity shares; or
  • has the option to acquire the remaining balance of the equity shares; or
  • has an investment amounting to at least €1,164,700 which is kept for an uninterrupted period of at least 183 days; or
  • has an entitlement for first refusal in the event of a proposed disposal, redemption or cancellation of the remaining balance of the equity shares;
  • has an entitlement to sit on the Board; or
  • holds shares for the furtherance of its business and not for the purpose of trading.

Test 2 for its applicability – Applicable ONLY in case of foreign dividends

  • the participating holding is resident or incorporated in an EU member state; or
  • the participating holding is subject to tax at a rate of at least 15%; or
  • the participating holding has 50% or less of its income derived from passive interest or royalties.

Failure to satisfy any of these three conditions requires the satisfaction of both conditions set out in Test 3.

Test 3 for its applicability – Applicable ONLY in case of foreign dividends and if Test 2 is not satisfied

  • the investment in the participating holding must not be held as a portfolio investment; and
  • the passive interest or royalties derived by the participating holding would have been subject to tax at a rate of at least 5%.

Alternative to the Participation Exemption

Malta also offers the possibility of a 100% tax refund in respect of qualifying income. Whereas the participation exemption, not having to pay any tax, grants a cash flow advantage; in some instances the company may be required to provide evidence of tax paid in Malta, in which case it would use the full refund system.


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