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Croatia

Executive Summary

Croatia became a member of the EU in 2013, which enhanced its economic stability and provided some new opportunities for trade and investment. Croatia is slowly accessing a substantial amount of available EU funds, but many direct benefits of EU entry are still to come.  The Croatian government pledged to take legislative and administrative steps to reduce barriers to investment, streamline bureaucracy and public administration, and program EU funds more efficiently but promised reforms in some areas, to date, have been halting in the face of opposition from vested interest groups.  

The government is willing to meet at senior levels with interested investors and to assist in resolving problems.  Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is a former member of the European Parliament and has signaled his commitment to wide-ranging structural reforms in line with recommendations from the EU and global financial institutions.  Relative strengths in the Croatian economy include low inflation, a stable exchange rate, and developed infrastructure. Historically, the most promising sectors for investment in Croatia have been tourism, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, and banking.

However, the Croatian economy continues to be defined by a large government bureaucracy, underperforming state-owned enterprises, and low regulatory transparency, all of which contributes to poor performance and relatively low levels of foreign investment.  Following a decade of growth from the end of the war in 1995, investment activity in Croatia slowed substantially in 2008 and remained under historic levels despite the economy’s emergence from recession at the end of 2015, relatively robust growth in 2016, and continued growth in 2017.  The banking system weathered the global financial crisis well but was saddled with financial costs related to the government-mandated conversion of Swiss Franc loans into euros in 2015.

In the last two years, the government implemented a number of financial incentives and measures designed to attract investment and support entrepreneurship.  However, these incentives are no corrective for profound deficiencies in the investment climate which include difficulty in establishing property ownership owing to incomplete public property records and an inefficient, sometimes unpredictable, judicial system that contributes to slow resolution of legal disputes.  Investors continue to face high “para-fiscal” fees, rigid labor laws, and slow and complex permitting procedures for most investments.  

The government maintains a budget deficit well within EU-recommended levels.  In January 2019, the government announced the fourth economic reform package of PM Plenkovic’s tenure.  This package aims to cut red tape, decrease the administrative burden on start-ups and established businesses, and generally stimulate economic growth.  Although the government continues to make incremental improvements to the business environment, its primary focus remains on preventing job losses from state-owned enterprises and “strategic” sectors.  In the last year, the government privatized a formerly state-owned fertilizer company by providing state guarantees equivalent to the total amount of private capital invested and is attempting to shore up the financial viability of two major shipbuilding companies. 

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 60 of 176 https://www.transparency.org/cpi2018#results 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 58 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/croatia/ 
Global Innovation Index 2018 41 of 128 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii-2018-report 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2016 $199 Host government, Croatian National Bank http://www.hnb.hr/en/statistics/statistical-data/

rest-of-the-world/foreign-direct-investments

World Bank GNI per capita 2018 60 of 176 https://www.transparency.org/cpi2018#results 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Croatia is generally open to foreign investment and the Croatian government continues to make efforts, such as financial incentives, to attract foreign investors. All investors, both foreign and domestic, are guaranteed equal treatment by law, with a handful of exceptions described below.  However, bureaucratic and political barriers remain. Investors agree that an unpredictable regulatory framework, lack of transparency, excessive duration of administrative procedures, lack of structural reforms, and unresolved property ownership issues weigh heavily upon the investment climate. 

The Agency for Investment and Competitiveness (AIK) — previously a stand-alone Croatian government agency providing investors with various services intended to help with implementation of investment projects — became part of the Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts at the start of 2019.  The Ministry’s Directorate for Investment, Industry and Innovation has assumed the assistance role previously offered by AIK. For more information, see: investcroatia.gov.hr. The Strategic Investment Act helps investors streamline large projects by gathering all necessary information the investor needs to implement the project and then fast-tracking the necessary procedures for implementation of the project, including acquiring permits and help with location. Various business groups, including the American Chamber of Commerce, Foreign Investors’ Council, and the Croatian Employers’ Association, are in dialogue with the government about ways to make doing business easier and to keep investment retention as a priority.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Croatian law allows for all entities, both foreign and domestic, to establish and own businesses and to engage in all forms of remunerative activities.  Article 49 of the Constitution states all entrepreneurs have equal legal status. However, the Croatian government restricts foreign ownership or control of services for a handful of national security-sensitive sectors:  inland waterways transport, maritime transport, rail transport, air ground-handling, freight-forwarding, publishing, education, and ski instruction. Apart from these, the only blocks to market access involve routine professional requirements (architect, auditor, engineer, lawyer, and veterinarian).  Over 90 percent of the banking sector is foreign-owned. 

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published an investment climate review for Croatia in June 2019:

https://www.oecd.org/publications/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-croatia-2019-2bf079ba-en.htm

The World Bank Group published a “Doing Business” Economic Profile of Croatia in 2018: http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/croatia

Business Facilitation

The Croatian e-government initiative “Hitro.hr” (www.hitro.hr  ) provides for 24-hour access to on-line business registration. Additionally, Hitro.hr offices are located in more than 60 Croatian cities and towns. In order to begin business activities, a company needs to register with the State Statistics Bureau to obtain a company identification number, then with a Notary Public, the Commercial Court, Tax Administration, and Health and Pension agencies.  This process can take from one to three days, depending on the efficiency of the local Commercial court, which processes the registration. Private sector participants have complained that the process can take as long as 60 days.  

In 2018, the Global Enterprise Agency rated Croatia’s business registration process 4 out of 10, while the World Bank Ease of Doing Business report ranks Croatia as 123 out of 190 countries.  The government has pledged to improve conditions for business registration. Croatia’s business facilitation mechanism provides for equitable treatment to all interested in registering a business, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

Outward Investment

Croatians have invested some USD 4 million in the United States.  Croatia has no restrictions on domestic investors who wish to invest abroad.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2018 $60,892 2018 $60,805 www.worldbank.org/en/country   
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $138 N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $56.7 N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 65.15% N/A N/A UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx    

[Select country, scroll down to “FDI Stock”- “Inward”, scan rightward for most recent  year’s “as percentage of gross domestic product”]

*GDP at www.dzs.hr   for 2018, FDI at www.hnb.hr    for Q1-Q3 2018 Note: World Bank and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis do not have GDP or FDI data available for 2018 at time of publishing.


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment From/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $39,675 100% Total Outward $7,722 100%
The Netherlands $6,856 20.4% The Netherlands $3,212 41.6%
Austria $4,326 12.9% Bosnia Herzegovina $1,448 18.8%
Italy $3,612 10.8% Slovenia $1,151 14.9%
Germany $3,215 9.6% Serbia $946 12.2%
Luxembourg $2,756 8.2% Montenegro $302 3.9%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

*FDI at www.hnb.hr    for Q1-Q3 2018


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available.

Czech Republic

Executive Summary

The Czech Republic is a medium-sized, open, export-driven economy with 80 percent of its GDP based on exports, mostly from the automotive and engineering industries.  According to the Czech Statistical Office, most of the country’s exports go to the European Union (EU), with 32.4 percent going to Germany alone. The United States is the Czech Republic’s largest non-EU export partner.  The Czech banking sector remains healthy. The country has strong, stable growth, with 2.9 percent GDP growth in 2018.

The Czech National Bank ended its foreign exchange intervention in the Czech crown (CZK) in April 2017, which had kept the crown at 27 to the euro (EUR).  Since then, the CZK has appreciated to CZK25.8 per EUR and CZK22.9 per USD as of March 2019. The crown is fully convertible, and all international transfers of investment-related profits and royalties can be carried out freely.  While the Czech Republic meets the Maastricht criteria for adoption of the EUR and agreed to join the Eurozone under the country’s EU accession agreement, the Czech government has said it will not seek to join the common currency in the next few years and the possibility remains widely unpopular among Czech voters.

The Czech Republic fully complies with EU and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) standards for labor laws and equal treatment of foreign and domestic investors.  Labor laws are comparable with those of most developed nations. While wages continue to trail those in neighboring Western European countries (Czech wages are roughly one-third of comparable German wages), they have risen about 7 to 8 percent annually over the past two years, according to the Czech Statistical Office, although pressure on wages in competitive industries like IT has been much higher.  The country is now facing a labor shortage as most companies struggle to find workers with the unemployment rate solidly below 3 percent – the lowest rate in the EU. The 1992 U.S.-Czech Bilateral Investment Treaty, signed with the former Czechoslovakia, provides for international arbitration of investor–state disputes.

Great strides have been taken since the fall of communism to open the market to competition and privatization, but the Czech Republic still lacks sufficient enforcement of anti-trust violations.  The Czech Republic is committed to improving transparency and reducing corruption. The Czech government enforces intellectual property rights (IPR) protections.

There are few restrictions on foreign investment except in certain sectors that require access to sensitive information.   The government is currently in the process of drafting legislation to create a mechanism to screen foreign investments for national security concerns.  The Czech Republic has taken strides to diversify its traditional investments in engineering into new fields of research and development and innovative technologies.  EU structural funding has enabled the country to open a number of world-class scientific and high-tech research centers. EU member states are the largest investors in the Czech Republic.


Table 1:  Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 38 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/cpi2018
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2018 35 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 27 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in Partner Country (M USD, stock positions) 2017 $5,406 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $18,160 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Czech government actively seeks to attract foreign investment via policies that make the country an attractive destination for companies to locate, operate, and expand.  Act No. 72/2000 allows the Czech government to give investment incentives to investors who make new investments or expand their existing investments in the country. CzechInvest, the government investment promotion agency that operates under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, negotiates on behalf of the Czech government with foreign investors.  In addition, CzechInvest provides: assistance during implementation of investment projects, consulting services for foreign investors entering the Czech market, support for suppliers, and assistance for the development of innovative start-up firms. There are no laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors.

The Czech Republic is a recipient of substantial foreign direct investment (FDI).  Total foreign investment in the Czech Republic (equity capital + reinvested earnings + other capital) equaled USD 156 billion at the end of 2017, compared to USD 121.9 billion in 2016.  The increased activity of foreign investors reflects the solid state of the Czech economy and recovery in Europe. Of these, CzechInvest negotiated 106 new investment projects by foreign investors in the Czech Republic in 2017, worth USD 2.9 billion.

As a medium-sized, open, export-driven economy, the Czech market is strongly dependent on foreign demand, especially from the EU.  In 2018, 84.1 percent of Czech exports went to fellow EU member states, with 65.5 percent of this volume shipped to the EU and 32.4 percent to Germany, the Czech Republic’s largest trading partner according to the Czech Statistical Office.  The global economic crisis pulled the Czech Republic into its longest historical recession and highlighted its sensitivity to economic developments in the EU. Since emerging from recession in 2013, the economy has enjoyed some of the highest GDP growth rates of the European Union.  GDP growth reached 4.4 percent in 2017 and 2.9 percent in 2018. Growth estimates are smaller for 2019 at 2.6 percent, given uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the possibility of increasing international trade tariffs. Some experts predict a hard Brexit could cost the Czech economy 1.1 percent of GDP and 40,000 jobs.

The Czech Republic has no plans to adopt the EUR and instead has taken a delayed approach to adopting the Eurozone’s common currency.  Economic difficulties in the Eurozone during the global downturn weakened public support for the country’s adoption of the EUR, as did the Greek crisis, and the current government opposes setting a target date for accession.

Some unfinished elements in the economic transition, such as the slow pace of legislative and judicial reforms, have posed obstacles to investment, competitiveness, and company restructuring.  The Czech government has harmonized its laws with EU legislation and the acquis communautaire.  This effort involved positive reforms of the judicial system, civil administration, financial markets regulation, intellectual property rights protection, and in many other areas important to investors.

While there have been many success stories involving American and other foreign investors, a handful have experienced problems, mainly in heavily regulated sectors of the economy, such as media.  The slow pace of the courts is often compounded by judges’ lack of familiarity with commercial or intellectual property law.

Both foreign and domestic businesses voice concerns about corruption.  Other long-term economic challenges include dealing with an aging population and diversifying the economy away from an over-reliance on manufacturing and shared services toward a more high-tech, services-based, knowledge economy.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign individuals or entities can operate a business under the same conditions as Czechs.  Some areas, such as banking, financial services, insurance, or defense equipment have certain limitations or registration requirements, and foreign entities need to register their permanent branches in the Czech Commercial Register.  Some professionals, such as architects, physicians, lawyers, auditors, and tax advisors, must register for membership in the appropriate professional chamber. In general, licensing and membership requirements apply equally to foreign and domestic professionals.

As of 2012, U.S. and other non-EU nationals can purchase real property, including agricultural land, in the Czech Republic without restrictions.  Czech legal entities, including 100 percent foreign-owned subsidiaries, may own real estate without any limitations. The right of foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises is guaranteed by law.  Enterprises are permitted to engage in any legal activity with the previously noted limitations in sensitive sectors. Laws on auditing, accounting, and bankruptcy are in force, including the use of international accounting standards (IAS).

The government does not differentiate between foreign investors from different countries.

In response to the European Commission’s September 2017 investment screening proposal, the Czech Republic is currently in the process of drafting legislation to create a mechanism to screen foreign investments for national security concerns.  The legislation would require government review before foreign investments in sensitive sectors like defense and critical infrastructure. Investments in certain other sectors could also require review within five years of a transaction if new advancements in technology mean foreign ownership could pose a national security risk.

The U.S.-Czech Bilateral Investment Treaty contains specific guarantees of national treatment and Most Favored Nation treatment for U.S. investors in all areas of the economy other than insurance and real estate (see the section on the Bilateral Investment Treaty below).  U.S. investors are not disadvantaged or singled out by the Czech government.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years, the government has not undergone any third-party investment policy reviews through a multilateral organization.

Business Facilitation

Individuals have a number of bureaucratic requirements to set up a business or operate as a freelancer or contractor.  The Ministry of Industry and Trade provides an electronic guide on obtaining a business license, presenting step-by-step assistance, including links to related legislation and statistical data, and specifying authorities with whom to work (such as business registration, tax administration, social security, and municipal authorities), available at: https://www.mpo.cz/en/business/licensed-trades/guide-to-licensed-trades/  .  The Ministry of Industry and Trade has also established regional information points to provide consultancy services related to doing business in the Czech Republic and EU.  A list of contact points is available at: http://www.businessinfo.cz/en/psc.html  .

The time required to start a business was 25 days in 2018, which is slightly above the world average of 20.1 days.  The Czech Republic’s Business Register is publicly accessible and provides details on business entities. An application for an entry into the Business Register can be submitted in a hard copy, via a direct entry by a public notary, or electronically, subject to meeting online registration criteria requirements.  The Business Register is publically available at: https://or.justice.cz/ias/ui/rejstrik  .  The Czech Republic’s Trade Register is an online information system that collects and provides information on entities facilitating small trade and craft-oriented business activities, as specifically determined by related legislation.  It is available online at: http://www.rzp.cz/eng/index.html  .

Outward Investment

The volume of outward investment is lower than incoming FDI.  According to the latest data from the Czech National Bank, outward Czech outward investments amounted only to USD 32.4 billion in 2017, compared to inward investments of USD 156 billion.  However, outward investment activity has increased 78 percent since 2014. According to the Export Guarantee and Insurance Corporation (EGAP), Czech companies increasingly invest abroad to get closer to their customers, save on transport costs, and shorten delivery times.  The Czech government does not incentivize outward investment. As part of EU sanctions, there is a total ban on EU investment in North Korea as of 2017.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2:  Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD) 2017 $215,861  2017 $215,726 http://data.worldbank.org/country/czech-republic  
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in Partner Country (M USD, stock positions) 2017 $1,284 2017 $5,406 http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_multinational_companies_comprehensive_data.htm  
Host Country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions) 2017 $85 2017 N/A https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/factsheet.cfm?Area=364  
Total Inbound Stock of FDI as % host GDP 2017 65.8% 2017 78.3% https://data.oecd.org/fdi/fdi-stocks.htm  

*Sources:  Czech Statistical Office (www.czso.cz  ), Czech National Bank (https://www.cnb.cz/cnb/obiee_pzi  ).

As of 2015, the Czech National Bank records cross-border equity capital stocks for quoted shares (in line with the ESA 2010 and BPM6 international manuals) at market value instead of book value, rather than valuing FDI as the sum of historical flows, which is the methodology used by the United States.  As a result, while the 2014 figure for total U.S. FDI stock was listed at USD 4.388 billion under the sum of historical flows method, under the new methodology, it is valued at USD 1.567 billion. This explains the large discrepancy between U.S. and Czech figures for 2017.


Table 3:  Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data – 2017
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $149,556 100% Total Outward $26,708 100%
Netherlands $30,997 21% Netherlands $8,625 32%
Germany $25,304 17% Cyprus $4,920 18%
Luxembourg $16,990 11% Slovakia $3,718 14%
Austria $16,551 11% Luxembourg $3,514 13%
France $11,625 8% Romania $1,222 5%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

The IMF rankings for the top five sources of FDI stock are consistent with data from the Czech National Bank.  IMF rankings for destinations of FDI stock vary – the Czech National Bank lists Luxembourg second, Cyprus third, and Slovakia fourth (as opposed to IMF data, which places Cyprus second, Slovakia third, and Luxembourg fourth).   IMF and Czech National Bank figures for inward direct investment vary by up to 4 percent and figures for outward direct investment vary by up to 6 percent. These statistical distortions are much smaller than previous years as a result of the global adoption of the recently revised OECD Benchmark Definition for FDI, which is designed to discount investment flows from special purpose entities.

The top sources of and destinations of Czech FDI represent a combination of major EU trading partners and favored tax havens.  The leading country for both inward and outward direct investment flows is the Netherlands. In the early 1990s, the Netherlands became a popular place for corporate registration for domestic and foreign businesses active in the Czech Republic.  In recent years, the main rationale for registering a business in the Netherlands is favorable corporate income taxes, stimulating rapid development of offshore corporate structures in the Czech Republic. While the tax haven effect has dissipated (corporate income tax rates in the Czech Republic and Netherlands are nearly equal), the Netherlands remains a popular country for large corporations.  Luxembourg attracts Czech businesses for the same reason. Among other FDI partner countries, Cyprus offers one of the lowest corporate income tax rates in the EU (currently 12.5 percent), and tax exemption of dividends.


Table 4:  Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets – 2017
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $36,519 100% All Countries $19,732 100% All Countries $16,787 100%
Luxembourg $6,819 19% Luxembourg $5,899 30% Slovakia $2,538 15%
Austria $4,498 12% Belgium $3,036 15% Netherlands $2,310 14%
United States $3,368 9% United

States

$2,280 12% Austria $2,249 13%
Slovakia $3,241 9% Austria $2,248 11% Poland $2,005 12%
Belgium $3,108 9% Ireland $1,305 7% United States $1,088 6%

The Czech National Bank does not provide its own statistical data on portfolio investments by individual countries, but provides a reference to IMF data on its website.  As far as portfolio investment assets for all countries, the 2017 IMF results are consistent with the Czech National Bank’s data.

Hungary

Executive Summary

With a population of 9.8 million, Hungary has an open economy and GDP of approximately USD 156 billion.  Hungary has been a member of the European Union (EU) since 2004, and fellow member states are its most important trade and investment partners.  Macroeconomic indicators are generally strong: the economy grew by 4.9 percent in 2018 and likely will grow by 3.5 percent in 2019. The government has kept the deficit below 2.5 percent of GDP since 2013 and has lowered public debt from more than 80 percent of GDP in 2010 to 71 percent in 2018.  Ratings agencies upgraded Hungary’s sovereign debt to two notches above investment grade in 2019.

Hungary’s central location and high-quality infrastructure have made it an attractive destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).  Between 1989 and 2017, Hungary received approximately USD 98 billion in FDI, mainly in the banking, automotive, software development, and life sciences sectors.  The EU accounts for 89 percent of all in-bound FDI. The United States is the largest non-EU investor. The Government of Hungary (GOH) actively encourages investments in manufacturing and high-value added sectors, including research and development centers and service centers.  To promote investment, the GOH lowered the corporate tax rate to 9 percent in 2017 and the labor tax to 19.5 percent in 2018, which is among the lowest rates in the EU. Hungary’s Value Added Tax (VAT) however, is the highest in Europe at 27 percent.

Despite these advantages, Hungary’s regional economic competitiveness has declined in recent years.  Since early 2016, multinationals have identified shortages of qualified labor, specifically technicians and engineers, as the largest obstacle to investment in Hungary.  In certain industries, such as finance, energy, telecommunication, pharmaceuticals, and retail, unpredictable sector-specific tax and regulatory policies have favored national and government-linked companies.   Additionally, persistent corruption and cronyism continue to plague the public sector. Since 2010, According to Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index, Hungary placed 64st worldwide and 26th out of 28 EU member states in 2018.  In 2016, the GOH withdrew from the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a transparency-focused international organization, after refusing to address the organization’s concerns about transparency and good governance. Both foreign and domestic investors are reporting pressure to sell their businesses to government-affiliated investors.  Those who refuse to sell often face increased tax audits or spurious regulatory and court challenges. Additionally, some executives in Hungarian subsidiaries of U.S. multinationals have noted that the GOH’s strong anti-migrant rhetoric and actions have negatively affected board members’ views of Hungary, making it more difficult for the subsidiaries to obtain approval for new investments.

Analysts remain concerned that the GOH may intervene in certain priority sectors to unfairly promote domestic ownership at the expense of foreign investors.  In September 2016, PM Viktor Orban announced that at least half of the banking, media, energy, and retail sectors should be in Hungarian hands. Through various tax changes, analysts say the GOH pushed several foreign owned banks out of Hungary and increased Hungarian ownership in the banking sector to approximately 50 percent, up from 40 percent in 2010.  In the energy sector, foreign-owned company share of total revenue fell from 70 percent in 2010 to below 50 percent by the end of 2018. Foreign media ownership also has reduced drastically in recent years as GOH-friendly businesses have consolidated control of Hungary’s media environment. The number of media outlets owned by GOH-allies increased from around 30 in 2015 to nearly 500 in 2018.  In November 2018, the owners of 476 pro-GOH media outlets, comprising 85 percent of all media, donated those outlets to the Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA) run by (ruling) Fidesz party insiders. PM Orban exempted KESMA from scrutiny by Hungary’s media and competition authorities. Despite threats to impose new regulations and taxes for the retail sector that would disproportionately impact multinational firms, foreign retail chains continue to maintain a large presence in Hungary.  Finally, the GOH has identified tourism as a priority industry and government-allied firms have begun to invest heavily in the sector.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 64 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 53 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 33 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $7,100 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $12,870 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Hungary maintains an open economy and its high-quality infrastructure and central location are features that make it an attractive destination for investment.  Attracting FDI is an important priority for the GOH, especially in manufacturing and export-oriented sectors. According to some reports, in other sectors, including banking and energy, however, government policies have resulted in some foreign investors selling their stakes to the government or state-owned enterprises.  Hungary was a leading destination for FDI in Central and Eastern Europe in the mid-nineties and the mid-two-thousands, with annual FDI reaching over USD 6 billion in 2005. The pace of FDI inflows slowed in subsequent years as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis and increasing competition for investment from other countries in the region.  In 2017, net annual FDI amounted to USD 5.6 billion while total gross FDI amounted to USD 98 billion.

As a block, the EU accounts for approximately 89 percent of all FDI in Hungary in terms of direct investors and 62 percent in terms of ultimate controlling parent investor.  Germany is the largest investor, followed by the United States, Austria, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and China. The majority of U.S. investment falls within automotive, software development, and life sciences sectors.  Approximately 450 U.S. companies maintain a presence in Hungary.

The GOH actively seeks foreign investment and has implemented a number of tax changes to increase Hungary’s regional competitiveness and attract investment, including a reduction of the personal income tax rate to 15 percent in 2016, reducing the business income tax rate to 9 percent in 2017, and the gradual reduction of the employer-paid welfare contribution from 27 percent in 2016 to 19.5 percent in 2018.  As of 2016, the GOH streamlined the National Tax and Customs authority (NAV) procedure to offer fast-track VAT refund to customers categorized as “low risk” based on their internal controls and previous tax record.

Many foreign companies have expressed displeasure with the unpredictability of Hungary’s tax regime, its retroactive nature, slow response times, and the volume of legal and tax changes.  According to the European Commission (EC), a series of progressively-tiered taxes implemented in 2014 disproportionately penalized foreign businesses in the telecommunications, tobacco, retail, media, and advertisement industries, while simultaneously favoring Hungarian companies.  Following EC infringement procedures, the GOH phased out most discriminative tax rates by 2015 and replaced them with flat taxes.

In 2017, the GOH passed a regulation that gives the government preemptive rights to purchase real estate in World Heritage areas.  The rule has been used to block the purchase of real estate by foreign investors in the most desirable areas of Budapest.

A 2014 law required retail companies with over USD 53 million in annual sales to close if they report two consecutive years of losses.  Retail businesses claimed the GOH specifically set the threshold to target large foreign retail chains.  The EC determined that the law was discriminatory and launched an infringement procedure in 2016, which resulted in the GOH repealing the controversial legislation in November 2018.

The GOH publicly declared that reducing foreign bank market share in the Hungarian financial sector is a priority.  Accordingly, GOH initiatives over the past several years have targeted the banking sector and reduced foreign participation from about 70 percent before the financial crisis in 2008 to just over 50 percent by the end of 2018.  In addition to the 2010 bank tax and the 2012 financial transaction tax levied on all cash withdrawals, regulations between 2012-2015 obligated banks to retroactively compensate borrowers for interest rate increases on foreign currency denominated mortgage loans, even though these increases were spelled out in the original contract with the customer, and were permitted by Hungarian law.

While the pharmaceutical industry is competitive and profitable in Hungary, multinational companies complain of numerous financial and procedural obstacles, including high taxes on pharmaceutical products and operations, prescription directives that limit a doctor’s choice of drugs, and obscure tender procedures that negatively affect the competitiveness of certain drugs.  Pharmaceutical firms have also taken issue with GOH moves to weigh the cost of pharmaceutical procurement as more important than efficacy when issuing tenders for public procurement.

The Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA), under the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, encourages and supports inbound FDI.  HIPA offers company and sector-specific consultancy, recommends locations for investment, acts as a mediator between large international companies and Hungarian firms to facilitate supplier relationships, organizes supplier training, and maintains active contact with trade associations.  Its services are available to all investors. For more information, see: https://hipa.hu/main  

Foreign investors generally report a productive dialogue with the government, both individually and through business organizations.  The American Chamber of Commerce enjoys an ongoing high-level dialogue with the GOH and the government has adopted many AmCham policy recommendations in recent years.  In 2017, the government established a Competitiveness Council, chaired by the Minister of Economy, which includes representatives from multinationals, chambers of commerce, and other stakeholders, to increase Hungary’s competitiveness.  Many U.S. and foreign investors have signed MOUs with the GOH to facilitate one-on-one discussions and resolutions to any pending issues. For more information, see: http://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-for-national-economy   and https://www.amcham.hu/  

The US-Hungary Business Council (USHBC) – a private, non-profit organization established in 2016 – aims to facilitate and maintain dialogue between American corporate executives and the top government leaders on the U.S.-Hungary commercial relationship.  The majority of significant U.S. investors in Hungary have joined USHBC, which hosts roundtables, policy conferences, briefings, and other major events featuring senior U.S. and Hungarian officials, academics, and business leaders. For more information, see: http://ushungarybc.org/  

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign ownership is permitted with the exception of some “strategic” sectors including defense-related industries, which require special government permit, and farmland.  There are no general limits on foreign ownership or control.

Foreign law firms and auditing companies must sign a cooperation agreement with a Hungarian company to provide services on Hungarian legal or auditing issues.

According to the Land Law, only private Hungarian citizens or EU citizens resident in Hungary with a minimum of three years of experience working in agriculture or holding a degree in an agricultural discipline can purchase farmland.  Eligible individuals are limited to purchasing 300 hectares (741 acres). All others may only lease farmland. Non-EU citizens and legal entities are not allowed to purchase agricultural land. All farmland purchases must be approved by a local land committee and Hungarian authorities, and local farmers and young farmers must be offered a chance to purchase the land first before a new non-local farmer is allowed to purchase the land.  For those who do not fulfill the above requirements or for legal entities, the law allows the lease of farmland up to 1200 hectares for a maximum of 20 years. The GOH has invalidated any pre-existing leasing contract provisions that guaranteed the lessee the first option to purchase, provoking criticism from Austria and Austrian farmers. Austria has reported the change to the European Commission, which initiated an infringement procedure against Hungary in October 2014.  In March 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that the termination of land use contracts violated EU rules, opening the way for EU citizens who lost their land use rights to sue the GOH for damages. In March 2015, the EC launched another – still ongoing – infringement procedure against Hungary concerning its restrictions on acquisitions of farmland.

The GOH passed a law on investment screening in 2018 that requires foreign investors seeking to acquire more than a 25 percent stake in a Hungarian company in certain “sensitive sectors” (defense, intelligence services, certain financial services, electric energy, gas, water utility, and electronic information systems for governments) to seek approval from the Interior Ministry.  The Ministry has up to 90 days to issue an opinion and can only deny the investment if it determines that the investment is designed to conceal an activity other than normal economic activity. As of publication, we are not aware of any instances in which the Ministry has reviewed an investment.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Hungary has not had any third-party investment policy reviews in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

Hungary maintains an open economy and its high-quality infrastructure and central location make it an attractive destination for investment.  Attracting FDI is an important priority for the GOH, especially in manufacturing and export-oriented sectors.  In 2006, Hungary joined the EU initiative to create a European network of “point of single contact” where existing businesses and potential investors can access all information on the business and legal environment, as well as connect to Hungary’s investment promotion agency.  Over the past two years, the government has strengthened investor relations and, in addition to signing strategic agreements with key investors, established a National Competitiveness Council to discuss competitiveness challenges, formulate pro-competitiveness measures, and build constructive stakeholder relationships.

The registration of business associations is compulsory in Hungary.  Firms must contract an attorney and register online with the Court of Registration.  Registry courts must process applications to register limited liability and joint-enterprise companies within 15 workdays, but the process usually does not take more than three workdays.  If the Court fails to act within the given timeframe, the new company is automatically registered. If the company chooses to use a template corporate charter, registration can be completed in a one-day fast track procedure.  Registry courts provide company information to the Tax Office (NAV) eliminating the need for separate registration. The Court maintains a computerized registry and electronic filing system and provides public access to company information.  The minimum capital requirement for a limited-liability company is HUF 3,000,000 (USD 10,800); for private limited companies HUF 5,000,000 (USD 17,900), and for public limited companies HUF 20,000,000 (USD 71,400). Foreign individuals or companies can establish businesses in Hungary without restrictions.

Further information on business registration and the business registry can be obtained at the GOH’s information website for businesses: http://eugo.gov.hu/starting-business-hungary   or at the Ministry of Justice’s Company Information Service: http://ceginformaciosszolgalat.kormany.hu/index  

Hungarian business facilitation mechanisms provide equitable treatment for women, but offer no special preference or assistance for them in establishing a company.

Outward Investment

The stock of total Hungarian investment abroad amounted to USD 28.7 billion in 2017.  Outward investment is mainly in manufacturing, services, finance and insurance, and science and technology.  There is no restriction in place for domestic investors to invest abroad. The GOH announced in early 2019 that it would like to increase Hungarian investment abroad and it is considering incentives to promote Hungarian investment.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2017 $139844 2017 $139,135 www.worldbank.org/en/country   
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $2,965 2017 $7,131 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $521 2017 $12,938 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2017 60% 2017 $74% UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx  


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment From/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $246,610 100% Total Outward $195,205 100%
Netherlands $60,135 24.4% United States $84,108 43.1%%
Luxembourg  $38,347 15.5% Switzerland $49,437 25.3%%
Ireland $31,226 12.7% Ireland $5,563 2.8%%
Germany $21,241 8.6% South Korea $4,629 2.4%
Cayman Island $17,591 7.1% Croatia $4,286 2.2%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $13,602 100% All Countries $8,213 100% All Countries $5,390 100%
Luxembourg $4,323 31.8% Luxembourg $3,320 40.4% Luxembourg $1,004 18.6%
United States $1,545 11.4% United States $1,379 16.8% Austria $379 7.0%
Austria $949 7.0% Austria $570 6.9% Slovak Republic $379 7.0%
Germany $588 4.3% Belgium $568 6.9% Czech Republic $309 5.7%
Belgium $571 4.2% Germany $522 6.4% Poland $254 4.7%

Ireland

Executive Summary

The Irish government actively promotes foreign direct investment (FDI) and has had considerable success in attracting U.S. investment, in particular.  Currently, there are approximately 700 U.S. subsidiaries in Ireland operating primarily in the following sectors: chemicals, bio-pharmaceuticals and medical devices, computer hardware and software, electronics, and financial services.

One of Ireland’s most attractive features as an FDI destination is its low corporate tax rate, which has remained at 12.5 percent since 2003.  Other factors cited by foreign firms include the quality and flexibility of the English-speaking workforce; availability of a multilingual labor force; cooperative labor relations; political stability; and pro-business government policies and regulators.  Additional positive features include a transparent judicial system; transportation links; proximity to the United States and Europe; and Ireland’s geographic location, which leaves it well placed in time zones to support investment in Asia and the Americas.  Ireland also benefits from its membership in the European Union (EU) and resulting access to a Single Market of 500 million consumers, plus the drawing power of existing companies operating successfully in Ireland (a so-called “clustering” effect). The planned withdrawal by the United Kingdom (UK) from the EU, or Brexit, will leave Ireland as the only remaining English-speaking country in the EU and may make Ireland even more attractive as a destination for FDI.

The Irish government treats all firms incorporated in Ireland on an equal basis.  Ireland’s judicial system is transparent and upholds the sanctity of contracts, as well as laws affecting foreign investment.  Conversely, the following factors hurt Ireland’s ability to attract investment: high labor and operating costs (such as for energy); skilled-labor shortages; Eurozone-risk; sometimes-deficient infrastructure (such as in transportation, housing, energy and broadband Internet); uncertainty in EU policies on some regulatory matters; and absolute price levels among the highest in Europe.

There is no formal screening process for foreign investment in Ireland.  Investors looking to receive government grants or assistance through one of the four state agencies responsible for promoting foreign investment in Ireland are often required, however, to meet certain employment and investment criteria.

Ireland uses the euro as its national currency and enjoys full current and capital account liberalization.

The government recognizes and enforces secured interests in property, both chattel and real estate.  Ireland is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a party to the International Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property.

Several state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operate in Ireland in the energy, broadcasting, and transportation sectors.  All of Ireland’s SOEs are open to competition for market share.

The United States and Ireland do not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty, but since 1950 have shared a Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty, which provides for national treatment of U.S. investors.  The two countries also have shared a Tax Treaty since 1998, supplemented in December 2012 with an agreement to improve international tax compliance and to implement the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 18 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 23 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 10 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $446,383 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $55,290 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Irish government actively promotes FDI, a strategy that has fueled economic growth since the mid-1990s.  The principal goal of Ireland’s investment promotion has been employment creation, especially in technology-intensive and high-skill industries.  More recently, the government has focused on Ireland’s international competitiveness by encouraging foreign-owned companies to enhance research and development (R&D) activities and to deliver higher-value goods and services.

The Irish government’s actions have achieved considerable success in attracting U.S. investment in particular.  The stock of American FDI in Ireland stood at USD 446 billion in 2017, more than the U.S. total for China, India, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa (the so-called BRICS countries) combined.  There are approximately 700 U.S. subsidiaries currently in Ireland employing roughly 155,000 people and supporting work for another 100,000. This figure represents a significant proportion of the 2.28 million people employed in Ireland.  U.S. firms operate primarily in the following sectors: chemicals, bio-pharmaceuticals and medical devices, computer hardware and software, electronics, and financial services.

U.S. investment has been particularly important to the growth and modernization of Irish industry over the past 25 years, providing new technology, export capabilities, management and manufacturing best practices, and employment opportunities.  The activities of U.S. firms in Ireland span from the manufacturing of high-tech electronics, computer products, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals to retailing, banking, finance, and other services. More recently, Ireland has also become an important R&D center for U.S. firms in Europe, and a magnet for U.S. internet/digital media investment.  Industry leaders like Google, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Electronic Arts use Ireland as the hub or important part of their respective European, and sometimes Middle Eastern, African, and/or Indian operations.

U.S. companies are attracted to Ireland as an exporting sales and support platform to the EU market of 500 million consumers and other global markets, mainly the Middle East and Africa.  Ireland is a successful FDI destination for many reasons, including a corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent for all domestic and foreign firms; a well-educated, English-speaking workforce; the availability of a multilingual labor force; cooperative labor relations; political stability; and pro-business government policies and regulators.  Ireland also benefits from a transparent judicial system; good transportation links; proximity to the United States and Europe, and the drawing power of existing companies operating successfully in Ireland (a so-called “clustering” effect).

Conversely, factors that negatively affect Ireland’s ability to attract investment include high labor and operating costs (such as for energy) costs; sporadic skilled-labor shortages; residual fallout from Ireland’s economic and financial restructuring; and sometimes-deficient infrastructure (such as in transportation, energy and broadband quality).  Ireland also suffers from housing and high-quality office space shortages; uncertainty in EU policies on some regulatory matters; and absolute price levels that are among the highest in Europe. Some Irish government agencies have in the past expressed concern that energy costs and the reliability of energy supply also could undermine Ireland’s attractiveness as a FDI destination.  The American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland has noted the need for greater attention to a “skills gap” in the supply of Irish graduates to the high technology sector. It also has asserted that high personal income tax rates can make attracting talent from abroad difficult.

In 2013, Ireland became the first country in the Eurozone to exit the EU, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund (EU/ECB/IMF, or so-called Troika) bailout program.  Compliance with the terms of the Troika program came at a substantial economic cost with gross domestic product (GDP) stagnation, austerity measures, and high unemployment (15 percent).  The economy has since recovered and has been the fastest growing Eurozone economy for the past five years, with a growth rate of 6 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, government initiatives to attract investment have continued to stimulate job creation and employment.  As a result, unemployment levels have fallen dramatically and the Central Bank of Ireland forecasts that Ireland’s unemployment rate will fall to 4.9 percent in 2019. Against this good economic background, there is a resurgent interest in Ireland as an investment destination.  Since exiting the bailout program, the Irish government has successfully returned to international sovereign debt markets, and successful bonds sales exemplify renewed international confidence in Ireland’s recovery.

Brexit and its Implications for Ireland

The UK’s exit from the EU will leave Ireland as the only remaining English-speaking country in the bloc.  Ireland is the only EU country to share a land border with the UK. It is still unclear what the full economic consequences of Brexit will be for Ireland as it loses a close EU ally on policy matters.  Econometric models from the Irish Department of Finance and from the Central Bank of Ireland suggest Brexit will cut economic growth modestly in the near term. Ireland is heavily dependent on the UK as an export market, especially for food products, and sectors such as food and agri-business may be hardest hit.  Ireland also sources many imports from the UK, which could raise costs if supply chains are disrupted. A number of UK-based firms (including US firms) have moved headquarters or opened subsidiary offices in Ireland to facilitate ease of business with other EU countries.

Industrial Promotion

Six government departments and organizations have responsibility to promote investment into Ireland by foreign companies:

  • The Industrial Development Authority of Ireland (IDA Ireland) has overall responsibility for promoting and facilitating FDI in all areas of the country, except in the Shannon Free Zone (see below).  IDA Ireland is also responsible for attracting foreign financial and insurance firms to Dublin’s International Financial Services Center (IFSC). IDA Ireland maintains seven U.S. offices (in New York, NY; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Mountain View, CA; Irvine, CA; Atlanta, GA; and Austin, TX), as well as offices throughout Europe and Asia.
  • Enterprise Ireland (EI) promotes joint ventures and strategic alliances between indigenous and foreign companies.  The agency also assists foreign firms that wish to establish food and drink manufacturing operations in Ireland. EI has five offices in the United States (New York, NY; Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; and Mountain View, CA), as well as offices in Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Asia.
  • Shannon Group (formerly the Shannon Free Airport Development Company) promotes FDI in the Shannon Free Zone (see description below) and owns properties in the Shannon region as potential green-field investment sites.  Since 2006 and the Industrial Development Amendments Act, EI assumed responsibility for investment by Irish firms in the Shannon region. IDA Ireland remains responsible for FDI in the Shannon region outside the Shannon Free Zone.
  • Udaras na Gaeltachta (Udaras) has responsibility for economic development in those areas of Ireland where the predominant language is Irish, and works with IDA Ireland to promote overseas investment in these regions.
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has responsibility for economic messaging and supporting the country’s trade promotion agenda as well as diaspora engagement to attract investment.
  • Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) supports the creation of good jobs by promoting the development of a competitive business environment in which enterprises will operate with high standards and grow in sustainable markets.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Irish law allows foreign corporations (registered under the Companies Act 2014 or previous legislation and known locally as a public limited company, or plc for short) to conduct business in Ireland.  Any company incorporated abroad that establishes a branch in Ireland must file certain papers with the Registrar of Companies. A foreign corporation with a branch in Ireland will have the same standing in Irish law for purposes of contracts, etc., as a domestic company incorporated in Ireland.  Private businesses are not competitively disadvantaged to public enterprises with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations.

No barriers exist to participation by foreign entities in the purchase of state-owned Irish companies.  Residents of Ireland may, however, be given priority in share allocations over all other investors. In 1998, the Irish government sold the state-owned telecommunications company Eircom, and Irish residents received priority in share allocations.  In 2005, the Government privatized the national airline Aer Lingus through a stock market flotation, but it chose to retain about a one-quarter stake. U.S. investors purchased shares during its privatization. In 2015, the International Airlines Group (IAG) purchased the Government’s remaining stake in the airline.

Citizens of countries other than Ireland and EU member states can acquire land for private residential or industrial purposes.  Under Section 45 of the Land Act, 1965, all non-EU nationals must obtain the written consent of the Land Commission before acquiring an interest in land zoned for agricultural use.  There are many equine stud farms and racing facilities owned by foreign nationals. No restrictions exist on the acquisition of urban land.

Ireland does not have formal investment screening legislation, but as an EU member it may need to implement any future common EU investment screening regulations/directives.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Economist Intelligence Unit and World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 provide current information on Ireland’s investment policies.

Business Facilitation

All firms must register with the Companies Registration Office (www.cro.ie).  As well as registering companies, the CRO also can register a business/trading name, a non-Ireland based foreign company (external company), or a limited partnership.  A firm or company registered under the Companies Act 2014 becomes a body corporate as and from the date mentioned in its certificate of incorporation. The website permits online data submission.  Firms must submit a signed paper copy of this online application to the CRO, unless the applicant company has already registered with www.revenue.ie (the website of Ireland’s tax collecting authority, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners).

Outward Investment

Enterprise Ireland assists Irish firms in developing partnerships with foreign firms mainly to develop and grow indigenous firms.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

U.S. and foreign companies with major foreign direct investments in Ireland include:

Abbott, AdRoll, Adobe, Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs, Aldi, Alexion, Allianz, Analog Devices, AOL, Apple, Aramark, AWS, Axa, BAM, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Biotrin, BNY Mellon, Boots, Boston Scientific, BT, Citi, DellEMC, Dropbox, eBay, Eli Lilly,  Ericsson, Etsy, Facebook, Fidelity, Generali, Gilead, Google, Heineken, HPE, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Liebherr, LinkedIn, Mastercard, Microsoft, MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme), Oracle, PayPal, Pfizer, Qualtrics, Quantcast, Regeneron, Salesforce.com, Sanofi, SAP, ServiceSource, Servier, Siemens, State Street, Stream Global Services, Tesco, Teva, Twitter, UnitedHealth Group, United Technologies Research Centre, Vodafone, Waters, Yahoo!, Zeus, and Zurich.

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2017 $369,181 www,cso.ie   
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A  N/A 2017 $446,383 BEA data
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A   N/A 2017 $147,834 BEA data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2017 299.2% UNCTAD  

* Source: Central Statistics Office (www.cso.ie)


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment From/in Counterpart Economy Data – 2017
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $892,742 100% Total Outward $860,058 100%
United States $214,665 24% Luxembourg $340,002 40%
Netherlands $119,946 13% United States $111,402 13%
Luxembourg $110,818 12% United Kingdom $105,528 12%
Switzerland $89,319 10% Netherlands $95,406 11%
United Kingdom $69,761 8% Bermuda $50,748 6%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $3,236,420 100% All Countries $1,331,249 100% Al lCountries $1,905,172 100%
U.S $917,119 28% U.S $436,844 33% UK $507,561 27%
UK $674,714 21% UK $167,154 13% U.S. $480,275 25%
France $210,312 6% Luxembourg $102,132 8% France $165,279 9%
Germany $134,448 4% Japan $80,228 6% Germany $83,381 4%
Luxembourg $134,535 4% Germany $53,067 4% Netherlands $77,887 4%

Netherlands

Executive Summary

The Netherlands consistently ranks among the world’s most competitive industrialized economies.  It offers an attractive business and investment climate and remains a welcoming location for business investment from the United States and elsewhere.

Strengths of the Dutch economy include the Netherlands’ stable political and macroeconomic climate, a highly developed financial sector, strategic location, well-educated and productive labor force, and high-quality physical and communications infrastructure.  Investors in the Netherlands take advantage of its highly competitive logistics, anchored by the largest seaport and fourth-largest airport in Europe. In telecommunications, the Netherlands has one of the highest internet penetrations in the European Union (EU) at 96 percent and hosts one of the largest data transport hubs in the world, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange.

The Netherlands is among the largest recipients and sources of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world and one of the largest historical recipients of direct investment from the United States.  This can be attributed to the Netherlands’ competitive economy, historically business-friendly tax climate, and many investment treaties containing investor protections. The Dutch economy has significant foreign direct investment in a wide range of sectors including logistics, information technology, and manufacturing.  Dutch tax policy continues to evolve in response to EU attempts to harmonize tax policy across member states.

In the wake of the worldwide financial crisis a decade ago, the Dutch government implemented significant reforms in key policy areas, including the labor market, the housing sector, the energy market, the pension system, and health care.  Dutch reform policies were crafted in close consultation with key stakeholders, including business associations, labor unions, and civil society groups. This consultative approach, often referred to as the Dutch “polder model,” is how Dutch policy is generally developed.

After years of recovery, with associated “catch-up” rates of economic growth, the macroeconomic outlook in the Netherlands is for a stable but low-growth economy.  The Dutch government projects a period of lower GDP growth of 1.5 percent in 2019 and 2020. Projected drivers of growth include increased government spending, as well as invigorated domestic consumption by households as unemployment reaches record lows.

  • The Netherlands is a top destination for U.S. FDI abroad, holding just under USD 900 billion out of a total of USD 6 trillion total outbound U.S. investment – about 16 percent.
  • Dutch investors contribute USD 367 billion FDI to the United States of the USD 4 trillion total inbound FDI– about 10 percent.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 8 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2017#table
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2018 36 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 2 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $936,728  http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $46,180 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Netherlands is the sixteenth-largest economy in the world and the fifth largest in the European Monetary Union (the eurozone), with a gross domestic product (GDP) of over USD 900 billion (773 billion euros).  According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Netherlands is consistently among the three largest source and recipient economies for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world, although the Netherlands is not the ultimate destination for the majority of this investment.  The government of the Netherlands maintains liberal policies toward FDI, has established itself as a platform for third-country investment with some 145 investment agreements in force, and adheres to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Codes of Liberalization and Declaration on International Investment, including a National Treatment commitment and adherence to relevant guidelines.

The Netherlands is the recipient of eight percent of all FDI inflow into the EU.  Of all EU member states, it is the top recipient of U.S. FDI, at over 16 percent of all U.S. FDI abroad as of 2017.  The Netherlands has become a key export platform and pan-regional distribution hub for U.S. firms. Roughly 60 percent of total U.S. foreign-affiliate sales in the Netherlands are exports, with the bulk of them going to other EU members.

In 2014, foreign-owned companies made inward direct investment worth USD 15.8 billion (14.2 billion euros) – just over 30 percent of total corporate investment in durable goods in the Netherlands.  Foreign investors provide 19 percent of Dutch employment in the private sector (860,200 jobs). U.S. firms contribute the most among foreign firms to employment, responsible for 214,000 jobs. In its 2017 investment report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) identified the Netherlands as the world’s fifth largest destination of global FDI inflows and the third largest source of FDI outflows.

Although policy makers fear that a Brexit will be detrimental for the Dutch economy, so far the Netherlands is benefitting from companies exiting the United Kingdom in anticipation of Brexit.  According to the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA), the number of companies interested in moving to the Netherlands because of Brexit increased from 80 in 2017 to 150 in 2018 to 250 in 2019.  The companies are coming mainly from the health, creative industry, financial services, and logistics sectors.  The Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) has predicted Amsterdam will emerge as a main post-Brexit financial trading center in Europe for automated trading platforms and other ‘fintech’ firms, allowing these companies to keep their European trading within the confines of the EU after Brexit.

Dutch tax authorities provide a high degree of customer service to foreign investors, seeking to provide transparent, precise tax guidance that makes long-term tax obligations more predictable.  Advance Tax Rulings (ATR) and Advance Pricing Agreements (APA) are guarantees given by local tax inspectors regarding long-term tax commitments for a particular acquisition or Greenfield investment.  Dutch tax policy continues to evolve as the EU seeks to harmonize tax measures across members states. A more detailed description of Dutch tax policy for foreign investors can be found at http://investinholland.com/incentives-and-taxes/   and http://investinholland.com/incentives-and-taxes/fiscal-climate/  .

Dutch corporations and branches of foreign corporations are currently subject to a corporate tax rate of 25 percent on taxable profits, which puts the Netherlands in the middle third among EU countries’ corporate tax rates and below the tax rates of its larger neighbors.  Profits up to USD 240,000 (200,000 euros) are taxed at a rate of 19 percent.  In October 2018, the Dutch government announced it would lower its corporate tax rate to 20.5 percent in 2021, with profits up to USD 240,000 taxed at a 15 percent rate from 2021 onwards.

Dutch corporate taxation generally allows for exemption of dividends and capital gains derived from a foreign subsidiary.  Surveys of the corporate tax structure of EU member states note that both the corporate tax rate and the effective corporate tax rate in the Netherlands are around the EU average.  Nevertheless, the Dutch corporate tax structure ranks among the most competitive in Europe considering other beneficial measures such as ATAs and/or APAs. The Netherlands also has no branch profit tax and does not levy a withholding tax on interest and royalties.

Maintaining an investment-friendly reputation is a high priority for the Dutch government, which provides public information and institutional assistance to prospective investors through the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) (https://investinholland.com/  ). Historically, over a third of all “Greenfield” FDI projects that NFI attracts to the Netherlands originate from U.S. companies.  Additionally, the Netherlands business gateway at https://business.gov.nl/   – maintained by the Dutch government – provides information on regulations, taxes, and investment incentives that apply to foreign investors in the Netherlands and clear guidance on establishing a business in the Netherlands.

The NFIA maintains six regional offices in the United States (Washington, DC; Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; New York City; and San Francisco).  The American Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands (https://www.amcham.nl/  ) also promotes U.S. and Dutch business interests in the Netherlands.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

With few exceptions, the Netherlands does not discriminate between national and foreign individuals in the establishment and operation of private companies.  The government has divested its complete ownership of many public utilities, but in a number of strategic sectors, private investment – including foreign investment – may be subject to limitations or conditions.  These include transportation, energy, defense and security, finance, postal services, public broadcasting, and the media.

Air transport is governed by EU regulation and subject to the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement.  U.S. nationals can invest in Dutch/European carriers as long as the airline remains majority-owned by EU governments or nationals from EU member states.  Additionally, the EU and its member states reserve the right to limit U.S. investment in the voting equity of an EU airline on a reciprocal basis that the United States allows for foreign nationals in U.S. carriers.

In concert with the European Union, the Dutch government is considering how to best protect its economic security but also continue as one of the world’s most open economies.  The Netherlands has no formal foreign investment screening mechanism, but the government has begun discussions about developing targeted investment-screening for certain vital sectors that could represent national security vulnerabilities.  The government is in the process of finalizing legislation that will establish investment screening mechanisms in the first of those vital sectors: telecommunications. The Netherlands has certain limitations on foreign ownership in sectors that are deemed of vital national interest (transportation, energy, defense and security, finance, postal services, public broadcasting, and the media).  There is no requirement for Dutch nationals to have an equity stake in a Dutch registered company.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Netherlands has not recently undergone an investment policy review by the OECD, World Trade Organization (WTO), or UNCTAD.

Business Facilitation

All companies must register with the Chamber of Commerce and apply for a fiscal number with the tax administration, which allows expedited registration for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 50 employees:  https://www.kvk.nl/english/ordering-products-from-the-commercial-register/  .

The World Bank’s 2019 Ease of Doing Business Index ranks the Netherlands as number 22 in starting a business.  The Netherlands ranks better than the OECD average on registration time, the number of procedures, and required minimum capital.

The Netherlands business gateway at https://business.gov.nl/   – maintained by the Dutch government – provides a general checklist for starting a business in the Netherlands: https://business.gov.nl/starting-your-business/checklists-for-starting-a-business/general-checklist-for-starting-a-business-in-the-netherlands/  .  The Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) from 1956 gives U.S. citizens preferential treatment to operate a business in the Netherlands, providing ease of establishment that most other non-EU nationals do not enjoy.  U.S. entrepreneurs applying under the DAFT do not need to satisfy a strict, points-based test and do not have to meet pre-conditions related to providing an innovative product. U.S. entrepreneurs setting up a sole proprietorship only have to register with the Chamber of Commerce and demonstrate a minimum investment of 4,500 euros.  DAFT entrepreneurs receive a two-year residence permit, with the possibility of renewal for five subsequent years.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2018 $883,500 2017 $826,200 World Bank
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $827,523 (DNB) 2017 $936.700 BEA
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $999,036 (DNB) 2017 $367.100 BEA
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2017 700% (Eurostat) 2017 128%
566%
UNCTAD

Eurostat

* Source for Host Country Data: CBP, DNB (see notes below)

Note 1:  Host country source for GDP 2018 is The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB). CPB provides more recent data than World Bank.  For a breakdown of Dutch GDP, see: https://www.cpb.nl/centraal-economisch-plan-cep-2019  

Over 2018, Dutch GDP was 771,000 million euros and 2018 economic growth was 2.5 percent.

  • For dollar value of 2018 Dutch GDP, the 2018 CPB amount is converted with the official Treasury annual rate of 1.118 $/€ for 2018: $883,527 (GDP2017*growth rate 2018*annual exchange rate) = (771 billion euro* 1.025*1.118)

Note 2:  Host country source for FDI stocks and flows is the Dutch Central Bank (DNB).  For Dutch outward FDI destined for the U.S., the accumulated value in 2018 is 893,592 million euros and for inbound FDI originating from U.S. the accumulated value in 2018 is 703,591 million euros.  The dollar value of Dutch FDI numbers is obtained with the official Treasury annual rate for 2018 of €/$=1.118. This shows $999,036 million for FDI outbound and $827,523 million for FDI inbound.

Note 3:  Eurostat compiles FDI as percentage of GDP for EU member states.  For 2017, Eurostat shows that inbound FDI (stocks) is 566 percent and outward FDI (stocks) is 700 percent of Dutch GDP.  See: eurostat tables FDI stocks inward   for inbound FDI ratio and eurostat tables FDI stocks outward   for outward FDI ratio.


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment From/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment (2017) Outward Direct Investment (2017)
Total Inward $5,005,349 100% Total Outward $6,174,234 100%
United States $955,401 19% United States $917,646 15%
Luxemburg $698,321 14% United Kingdom $652,297 11%
United Kingdom $479,682 10% Switzerland $492,344 8%
Switzerland $292,294 6% Luxemburg $487,384 8%
Bermuda $288,704 6% Germany $358,086 6%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets (December 2017)
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $2,017,438 100% All Countries $1,004,598 100% All Countries $1,012,840 100%
United States $524,980 26% United States $358,264 36% Germany $209,473 21%
Germany $239,179 12% Luxemburg $98,833 10% United States $166,715 16%
France $201,006 10% United Kingdom $73,132 7% France $163,018 16%
United Kingdom $128,194 6% Ireland $67,182 7% United Kingdom $55,062 5%
Luxemburg $119,144 6% Japan $47,105 5% Belgium $49,963 5%

Poland

Executive Summary

In the thirty years since Poland discarded communism and the fifteen years since it joined the European Union (EU), Poland’s investment climate has continued to grow in attractiveness to foreign investors, including U.S. investors.  Poland’s economy has experienced a long period of uninterrupted economic expansion since 1992. In 2018, Poland’s economy again gained momentum with approximately 5 percent growth as consumption continued to increase and spending of EU funds accelerated public investment.  Most economists, however, predict a slowdown in 2019 to around 4 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Poland moved from middle to high-income status according to the FTSE Russell’s annual classification report. However, some proposed economic legislation continued to dampen optimism in some sectors (e.g. retail, media, energy, digital services), and investors have pointed to lower predictability and the outsized role of state-owned and state-controlled companies in the Polish economy as an impediment to long-term balanced growth.  

Prospects for future growth, driven by domestic demand and inflows of EU funds from the 2014-2020 financial framework, will continue to attract investors seeking access to Poland’s dynamic market of over 38 million people, and to the broader EU market of over 500 million.  Poland’s well-diversified economy reduces its vulnerability to external shocks, although it depends heavily on the EU as an export market. Foreign investors also cite Poland’s well-educated work force as a major reason to invest, as well as its proximity to major markets such as Germany.  U.S. firms represent one of the largest groups of foreign investors in Poland. The volume of U.S. investment in Poland is estimated at around USD 6 billion by the national bank of Poland in 2017, although including indirect investment flows through subsidiaries may place it as high as USD 43 billion, according to the American Chamber of Commerce in Poland.  Historically foreign direct investment (FDI) was largest in the automotive and food processing industries, followed by machinery and other metal products and petrochemicals. “Shared office” services such as accounting, legal, and information technology services, including research and development (R&D), are Poland’s fastest-growing sectors for foreign investment.  The government seeks to promote domestic production and technology transfer opportunities in awarding military tenders. There are also some investment and export opportunities in the energy sector—both immediate (natural gas), and longer term (nuclear, energy grid upgrades, and offshore wind)—as Poland seeks to diversify its energy mix and reduce air pollution.

Defense is another promising sector for U.S. exports. The Polish government is actively modernizing its military inventory, presenting good opportunities for U.S. defense industry. In 2018, it signed its largest-ever defense contract when committing to purchase the PATRIOT missile defense system, and in 2019 it signed a contract to buy the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).  In February 2019, the Defense Ministry announced its updated technical modernization plan listing its top programmatic priorities, with defense modernization budgets forecasted to increase from approximately USD 3.3 billion in 2019 to approximately USD 7.75 billion in 2025.  Information technology and cybersecurity along with infrastructure also show promise, as Poland’s municipalities focus on smart city networks. A USD 10 billion central airport project may present opportunities for U.S. companies in project management, consulting, communications, and construction. The government seeks to expand the economy by supporting high-tech investments, increasing productivity and foreign trade, and supporting entrepreneurship, scientific research, and innovation through the use of domestic and EU funding.

In 2018, Poland saw significant increases in wholesale electricity prices due largely to an increase in the price of coal and EU emissions permits.  The government has proposed a new law to protect household consumers from rising electricity prices, but the bill was at odds with the European Commission (EC) for the lack of notification of what amounted to state aid measures. 

Some organizations, notably private business associations and labor unions, have raised concerns that policy changes have been introduced quickly and without broad consultation, increasing uncertainty about the stability and predictability of Poland’s business environment.  Some examples include a one-time bank holiday (to celebrate 100 years of Poland regaining independence) with less than a month warning, and a major tax overhaul passed after firms had already prepared budgets for the coming year. Previous proposals to introduce legislation on media de-concentration raised concern among foreign investors in the sector; however, these proposals seem to be stalled for the time being.  

The Polish tax system underwent many changes over the last three years with the aim of increasing budget revenues, including more effective tax auditing and collection.  The November 2018 tax bill included a number of changes important for foreign investors, such as penalties for aggressive tax planning, changes to the withholding tax, incentives for R&D, and an exit tax on corporations and individuals.  

As the largest recipient of EU funds (which contribute an estimated 1 percentage point to Poland’s GDP growth per year), any significant decrease in EU cohesion spending would have a large negative impact on Poland’s economy.  Draft EU budgets foresee a 24 percent decrease in Poland’s Cohesion funds in the next cycle. Also, observers are closely watching the European Commission’s proceedings under Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, initiated in December 2017, regarding rule of law and judicial reforms.  These include the introduction of an extraordinary appeal mechanism in the enacted Supreme Court Law, which could potentially affect economic interests, in that final judgments issued since 1997 can now be challenged and overturned in whole or in part, including some long-standing judgments on which economic actors have relied.  

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 60/100

36 of 180

http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 33 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 41.70 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 USD 12,604 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 USD 12,730 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Poland welcomes foreign investment as a source of capital, growth, and jobs, and as a vehicle for technology transfer, research and development (R&D), and integration into global supply chains.  The government’s Strategy for Responsible Development identifies key goals for attracting investment, including improving the investment climate, a stable macroeconomic and regulatory environment, and high-quality corporate governance, including in state-controlled companies.  By the end of 2017, according to IMF and National Bank of Poland data, Poland attracted around USD 239 billion (cumulative) in foreign direct investment (FDI), principally from Western Europe and the United States. In 2017, reinvested profits dominated the net inflow of FDI to Poland.  The greatest reinvestment of profits occurred in services and manufacturing, reflecting the change of Poland’s economy to a more service-oriented and less capital-intensive structure.

Foreign companies generally enjoy unrestricted access to the Polish market.  However, Polish law limits foreign ownership of companies in selected strategic sectors, and limits acquisition of real estate, especially agricultural and forest land.  Additionally, the current government has expressed a desire to increase the percentage of domestic ownership in some industries such as banking and retail which have large holdings by foreign companies, and has employed sectoral taxes and other measures to advance this aim.  In March 2018, Sunday trading ban legislation went into effect, which is gradually phasing out Sunday retail commerce in Poland, especially for large retailers. In 2019, stores may operate an average of one Sunday a month, and in 2020 a total ban will be in effect (with the exception of seven Sundays).  Polish authorities have publicly favored introducing a digital services tax. Since no draft has been released, the details of such a tax are unknown, but it would affect mainly foreign digital companies.

There is a variety of Polish agencies involved in investment promotion:

  • The Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology has two departments involved in investment promotion and facilitation: the Investment Development and the Trade and International Relations Departments.  The Deputy Minister supervising the Investment Development Department was appointed in 2019 to be ombudsman for foreign investors. https://www.gov.pl/web/przedsiebiorczosc-technologia/  
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) promotes Poland’s foreign relations including economic relations, and along with the Polish Chamber of Commerce (KIG), organizes missions of Polish firms abroad and hosts foreign trade missions to Poland.   https://www.msz.gov.pl/  ; https://kig.pl/  
  • The Polish Investment and Trade Agency (PAIH) is the main institution responsible for promotion and facilitation of foreign investment. The agency is responsible for promoting Polish exports, for inward foreign investment and for Polish investments abroad. The agency operates as part of the Polish Development Fund, which integrates government development agencies.  PAIH coordinates all operational instruments, such as commercial diplomatic missions, commercial fairs and programs dedicated to specific markets and sectors. The Agency has opened offices abroad including in the United States (San Francisco and Washington, D.C, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and New York. PAIH’s services are available to all investors. https://www.paih.gov.pl/en  
  • The Polish Chamber of Commerce in the United States (POLCHAM USA), located in Washington, D.C., promotes the strengthening of economic and trade relationships between the United States and Poland.  It is an independent, non-profit organization. https://polchamusa.org/  

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Poland allows both foreign and domestic entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in most forms of remunerative activity per the Entrepreneurs’ Law which went into effect on April 30, 2018.  Forms of business activity are described in the Commercial Companies Code. Poland does place limits on foreign ownership and foreign equity for a limited number of sectors. Polish law limits non-EU citizens to 49 percent ownership of a company’s capital shares in the air transport, radio and television broadcasting, and airport and seaport operations sectors.  Licenses and concessions for defense production and management of seaports are granted on the basis of national treatment for investors from OECD countries.

Pursuant to the Broadcasting Law, a television broadcasting company may only receive a license if the voting share of foreign owners does not exceed 49 percent and if the majority of the members of the management and supervisory boards are Polish citizens and hold permanent residence in Poland.  In January 2017, a team comprised of officials from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) and the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) was created in order to review and tighten restrictions on large media, and limit foreign ownership of the media.  While no legislation has been introduced, there is concern that possible future proposals may limit foreign ownership of media sector.

In the insurance sector, at least two management board members, including the chair, must speak Polish.  The Law on Freedom of Economic Activity (LFEA) requires companies to obtain government concessions, licenses, or permits to conduct business in certain sectors, such as broadcasting, aviation, energy, weapons/military equipment, mining, and private security services.  The LFEA also requires a permit from the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology for certain major capital transactions (i.e., to establish a company when a wholly or partially Polish-owned enterprise has contributed in-kind to a company with foreign ownership by incorporating liabilities in equity, contributing assets, receivables, etc.).  A detailed description of business activities that require concessions and licenses can be found here: https://www.paih.gov.pl/publications/how_to_do_business_in_Poland

Polish law restricts foreign investment in certain land and real estate.  Land usage types such as technology and industrial parks, business and logistic centers, transport, housing plots, farmland in special economic zones, household gardens and plots up to two hectares are exempt from agricultural land purchase restrictions.  Since May 2016, foreign citizens from European Economic Area member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, as well as Switzerland, do not need permission to purchase any type of real estate including agricultural land. Investors from outside of the EEA or Switzerland need to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration (with the consent of the Defense and Agriculture Ministries), pursuant to the Act on Acquisition of Real Estate by Foreigners, prior to the acquisition of real estate or shares which give control of a company holding or leasing real estate.  The permit is valid for two years from the day of issuance, and the ministry can issue a preliminary document valid for one year. Permits may be refused for reasons of social policy or public security. The exceptions to this rule include purchases of an apartment or garage, up to 0.4 hectares of undeveloped urban land, and “other cases provided for by law” (generally: proving a particularly close connection with Poland). Laws to restrict farmland and forest purchases came into force April 30, 2016, and are addressed in more detail in Section 6: Real Property.

Since September 2015 the Act on the Control of Certain Investments has provided for the national security-related screening of acquisitions in high-risk sectors including: energy generation and distribution; petroleum production, processing and distribution; telecommunications; media and mining; and manufacturing and trade of explosives, weapons and ammunition.  Poland maintains a list of strategic companies that can be amended at any time, but is updated at least once a year, usually in January. The national security review mechanism does not appear to constitute a de facto barrier for investment, and does not unduly target U.S. investment.  According to the Act, prior to the acquisition of shares of strategic companies (including the acquisition of proprietary interests in entities and/or their enterprises) the purchaser must notify the controlling government body and receive approval.  The obligation to inform the controlling government body applies to transactions involving the acquisition of a “material stake” in companies subject to special protection. The Act stipulates that failure to notify carries a fine of up to PLN 100,000,000 (approx. USD 25,575,542) or a penalty of imprisonment between six months and five years (or both penalties together) for a person acting on behalf of a legal person or organizational unit that acquires a material stake without prior notification.

The Polish government has drafted an amendment to extend the list of state companies with restrictions on selling shares and to increase the powers of the Prime Minister in the area of state property management.  The companies slated for additional restrictions are pipeline operator PERN, postal service Poczta Polska, aviation group PGL, railway system  PKP and the Special Purpose Vehicle in charge of building Poland’s planned central airport.  The amendment also sanctions possible mergers of such entities.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The 2018 OECD Economic Survey of Poland can be found here:

http://www.oecd.org/eco/surveys/economic-survey-poland.htm  

Additionally, the OECD Working Group on Bribery has provided recommendations on the implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in Poland:  http://www.oecd.org/daf/anti-bribery/poland-oecdanti-briberyconvention.htm  

In March 2018, the OECD published a Rural Policy Review on Poland.  According to this review, Poland has seen impressive growth in recent years, and yet regional disparities in economic and social outcomes remain large by OECD standards.  The review is available at: http://www.oecd.org/poland/oecd-rural-policy-reviews-poland-2018-9789264289925-en.htm  

Business Facilitation

The Polish government has continued to implement reforms aimed at improving the investment climate with a special focus on the SME sector and innovations.  In 2016-18, Poland reformed its R&D tax incentives with new regulations and changes encouraging wider use of the R&D tax breaks. As of January 1, 2019, a new mechanism reducing the tax rate on income derived from intellectual property rights (IP Box) was introduced.  Please see Section 5 of this report for more information.

A package of five laws referred to as the “Business Constitution”—intended to facilitate the operation of small domestic enterprises—was gradually introduced in 2018.  The main principle of the Business Constitution is the presumption of innocence of business owners in dealings with the government.

Poland made enforcing contracts easier by introducing an automated system to assign cases to judges randomly.  Despite these reforms and others, some investors have expressed serious concerns regarding over-regulation, over-burdened courts and prosecutors, and overly-burdensome bureaucratic processes.  The way tax audits are performed has changed considerably. For instance, in many cases the appeal against the findings of an audit now must be lodged with the authority that issued the initial finding rather than a higher authority or third party.

In Poland, business activity may be conducted in forms of a sole proprietor, civil law partnership, as well as commercial partnerships and companies regulated in provisions of the Commercial Partnerships and Companies Code.  Sole proprietor and civil law partnerships are registered in the Central Registration and Information on Business (CEIDG), which is housed by the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology: 

https://prod.ceidg.gov.pl/CEIDG.CMS.ENGINE/?D;f124ce8a-3e72-4588-8380-63e8ad33621f  

Commercial companies are classified as partnerships (registered partnership, professional partnership, limited partnership, and limited joint-stock partnership) and companies (limited liability company and joint-stock company).  A partnership or company is registered in the National Court Register (KRS) and kept by the competent district court for the registered office of the established partnership or company. Local corporate lawyers report that starting a business remains costly in terms of time and money, though KRS registration in the National Court Register averages less than two weeks according to the Ministry of Justice and four weeks according to the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report.  A 2018 law introduced a new type of company—PSA (Prosta Spółka Akcyjna – Simple Joint Stock Company).  PSAs are meant to facilitate start-ups with simpler and cheaper registration procedures. The minimum initial capitalization is 1 PLN (approx. USD 0.26) while other types of registration require 5,000 PLN (approx. USD 1,315) or 50,000 PLN (approx. USD 13,158).  A PSA has a board of directors, which merges the responsibilities of a management board and a supervisory board. The provision for PSA will enter into force in March 2020.

New provisions of the Public Procurement Law (“PPL”) transposing provisions of EU directives coordinating the rules of public procurement came into force on October 18, 2018.  These regulations apply to proceedings concerning contracts with a value equal to or exceeding the EU thresholds.

Polish lawmakers are gradually digitalizing the services of the KRS.   The first change, which entered into force on March 15, 2018, was the obligation to file financial statements with the Repository of Financial Documents via the Ministry of Finance website.  There is also a new requirement for representatives and shareholders of companies to submit statements on their addresses. A requirement to file financial statements exclusively in electronic form entered into force on October 1, 2018, and, beginning in  March 2020, all applications will have to be filed with the commercial register electronically. A certified e-signature may be obtained from one of the commercial e-signature providers listed on the following website: https://www.nccert.pl/  

Agencies that a business will need to file with in order to register in the KRS:

Both registers are available in English and foreign companies may use them.

Poland’s Single Point of Contact site for business registration and information is: https://www.biznes.gov.pl/en/  and an online guide to choose a type of business registration is: https://www.biznes.gov.pl/poradnik/-/scenariusz/REJESTRACJA_DZIALALNOSCI_GOSPODARCZEJ  

Outward Investment

The Polish Agency for Investment and Trade (PAIH) under the umbrella of the Polish Development Fund, plays a key role in promoting Polish investment abroad.  More information on PFR can be found in Section 7 and at its website: https://pfr.pl/  

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology have   significantly reformed Poland’s economic diplomacy. The Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency (PAIiIZ) was reformed in February 2017 to be the Polish Agency for Investment and Trade (PAIH).  Trade and Investment Promotion Sections in embassies and consulates around the world have been replaced by PAIH offices. These 70 offices worldwide constitute a global network and include six in the United States.  

PAIH offices offer a range of services to include: finding potential partners for Polish manufacturers/exporters; providing information on business opportunities; assisting in the organization of business trips and study tours; and assisting in initiating first contacts between interested local importers, distributors or wholesalers and Polish manufacturers or service providers.  The Agency implements pro-export projects such as the Polish Tech Bridges dedicated to expansion of innovative Polish SMEs.  PAIH has a number of investment/export-oriented government programs specially developed to promote Polish companies abroad such as Go China, Go India, Go Africa, Go ASEAN and Go Arctic.  Vietnam and Iran are also priority investment and export destinations for Poland, though trade with Iran has dropped off since the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions. Poland is a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).  Poland co-founded and actively supports the Three Seas Initiative, which seeks to improve north-south connections in road, energy and telecom infrastructure in 12 countries on NATO’s and the EU’s eastern flank. . PAIH is responsible for the promotion of Poland at the EXPO Dubai 2020. 

The national development bank BGK (Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego) offers support for goods with a Polish component and depending on the credit can be a minimum of 30-40 percent of net contract revenue.  BGK offers a number of short-term credit instruments like documentary letters of credit for post-financing. BGK offers direct credit for importers to purchase investment goods and services. The Export Credit Insurance Corporation KUKE insures the BGK-issued credit, including for companies from countries with higher trade risk.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2017 $518,587 2017 $526,466 http://www.worldbank.org/en/country  
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $5,729 2017 $12,604 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $812.6 2017 ** BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2017 46.0 2017 48.5 UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx  

* In Poland the National Bank of Poland (NBP) collects data on FDI. Annual FDI report/data are published at the end of the following year. GDP data are published by the Central Statistical Office. Final annual data are available at the end of May of the following year.

**Data are suppressed to avoid disclosure of data of individual companies


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI (as of end of 2017)

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 239,624 100% Total Outward 30,322 100%
Netherlands 46,157 19.3% Luxemburg 6,615 21.8%
Germany 41,883 17.5% Czech Republic 3,282 10.8%
Luxemburg 33,186 13.8% Switzerland 2,459 8.1%
France 21,972 9.2% Netherlands 2,372 7.8%
Spain 14,438 X% Cyprus 2,233 7.4%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Results of table are consistent with the data of the National Bank of Poland (NBP).  NBP publishes FDI data in October/November.

A number of foreign countries register businesses in the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Cyprus hence results for these countries include investments from other countries/economies.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment (as of June 2018)

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 37,685 100% All Countries 24,017 100% All Countries 13,669 100%
Luxemburg 6,251 17% Luxemburg 5,262 4% U.S. 2,860 21%
Intl Orgs 2,557 7% Germany 1,017 3% Intl Orgs 2,557 19%
France 1,509 4% Ireland 683 3% Sweden 1,200 9%
Germany 1,349 4% Austria 665 3% Luxemburg 989 7%
Sweden 1,240 3% Italy 644 3% France 903 7%

Note: NBP publishes only total amounts of portfolio investment assets.

Results of table are consistent with the data of the National Bank of Poland (NBP). NBP publishes FDI data in October/November.

A number of foreign countries register businesses in the Netherlands, Luxemburg or Cyprus hence results for these countries include investments from other countries/economies.

United Kingdom

Executive Summary

The United Kingdom (UK) actively encourages foreign direct investment (FDI).  The UK imposes few impediments to foreign ownership and throughout the past decade, has been Europe’s top recipient of FDI.  The UK government provides comprehensive statistics on FDI in its annual inward investment report: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/department-for-international-trade-inward-investment-results-2017-to-2018.

On June 23, 2016, the UK held a referendum on its continued membership in the European Union (EU) resulting in a decision to leave the EU.  On March 29, 2017, the UK initiated the formal process of withdrawing from the EU, widely known as “Brexit”.  Under EU rules, the UK and the EU had two years to negotiate the terms of the UK’s withdrawal.  At the time of writing, the deadline for the UK’s departure has been extended until October 31, 2019.  The terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU are still under negotiation, but it is widely expected that trade between the UK and the EU will be more difficult and expensive in the short-term.  At present, the UK enjoys relatively unfettered access to the markets of the other 27 EU member-states, equating to roughly 450 million consumers and USD 15 trillion worth of GDP. Prolonged uncertainty surrounding the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU and the terms of the future UK-EU relationship may continue to detrimentally impact the overall attractiveness of the UK as an investment destination for U.S. companies. 

Market entry for U.S. firms is facilitated by a common language, legal heritage, and similar business institutions and practices.  The UK is well supported by sophisticated financial and professional services industries and has a transparent tax system in which local and foreign-owned companies are taxed alike.  The British pound is a free-floating currency with no restrictions on its transfer or conversion. Exchange controls restricting the transfer of funds associated with an investment into or out of the UK do not exist.

UK legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international standards.  The UK legal system provides a high level of protection. Private ownership is protected by law and monitored for competition-restricting behavior.  U.S. exporters and investors generally will find little difference between the United States and the UK in the conduct of business, and common law prevails as the basis for commercial transactions in the UK.

The United States and UK have enjoyed a “Commerce and Navigation” Treaty since 1815 which guarantees national treatment of U.S. investors.  A Bilateral Tax Treaty specifically protects U.S. and UK investors from double taxation. There are early signs of increased protectionism against foreign investment, however.  HM Treasury announced a unilateral digital services tax which is due to come into force in April 2020, targeting digital firms, such as social media platforms, search engines, and marketplaces, with a 2 percent tax on revenue generated in the UK.  

The United States is the largest source of FDI into the UK.  Many U.S. companies have operations in the UK, including all top 100 of the Fortune 500 firms.  The UK also hosts more than half of the European, Middle Eastern and African corporate headquarters of American-owned firms.  For several generations, U.S. firms have been attracted to the UK both for the domestic market and as a beachhead for the EU Single Market.    

Companies operating in the UK must comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  The UK has incorporated the requirements of the GDPR into UK domestic law though the Data Protection Act of 2018.  After it leaves the EU, the UK will need to apply for an adequacy decision from the EU in order to maintain current data flows      

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 11 of 180 www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2018 9 of 189 www.doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 5 of 127 www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii-2018-report
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2017 $747,600 www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $40,530 data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The UK encourages foreign direct investment.  With a few exceptions, the government does not discriminate between nationals and foreign individuals in the formation and operation of private companies.  The Department for International Trade actively promotes direct foreign investment, and prepares market information for a variety of industries. U.S. companies establishing British subsidiaries generally encounter no special nationality requirements on directors or shareholders. Once established in the UK, foreign-owned companies are treated no differently from UK firms.   The British Government is a strong defender of the rights of any British-registered company, irrespective of its nationality of ownership.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign ownership is limited in only a few national security-sensitive companies, such as Rolls Royce (aerospace) and BAE Systems (aircraft and defense).  No individual foreign shareholder may own more than 15 percent of these companies. Theoretically, the government can block the acquisition of manufacturing assets from abroad by invoking the Industry Act 1975, but it has never done so in practice.  Investments in energy and power generation require environmental approvals. Certain service activities (like radio and land-based television broadcasting) are subject to licensing. The Enterprise Act of 2002 extends powers to the UK government to intervene in mergers and acquisitions which might give rise to national security implications and into which they would not otherwise be able to intervene.

The UK requires that at least one director of any company registered in the UK must be ordinarily resident in the UK.  The UK, as a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), subscribes to the OECD Codes of Liberalization, committed to minimizing limits on foreign investment.

While the UK does not have a formalized investment review body to assess the suitability of foreign investments in national security sensitive areas, an ad hoc investment review process does exist and is led by the relevant government ministry with regulatory responsibility for the sector in question (e.g., the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy who would have responsibility for review of investments in the energy sector).  To date, U.S. companies have not been the target of these ad hoc reviews. The UK is currently considering revisions to its national security review process related to foreign direct investment. (https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/national-security-and-infrastructure-investment-review ).

The Government has proposed to amend the turnover threshold and share of supply tests within the Enterprise Act 2002. This is to allow the Government to examine and potentially intervene in mergers that currently fall outside the thresholds in two areas: (i) the dual use and military use sector, (ii) parts of the advanced technology sector. For these areas only, the Government proposes to lower the turnover threshold from £70 million (USD 92 million) to £1 million (USD 1.3 million) and remove the current requirement for the merger to increase the share of supply to or over 25 percent.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Economist’s “Intelligence Unit”, World Bank Group’s “Doing Business 2018”, and the OECD’s “Economic Forecast Summary (May 2019) have current investment policy reports for the United Kingdom:

Business Facilitation

The UK government seeks to facilitate investment by offering overseas companies access to widely integrated markets.  Proactive policies encourage international investment through administrative efficiency in order to promote innovation and achieve sustainable growth.  The online business registration process is clearly defined, though some types of company cannot register as an overseas firm in the UK, including partnerships and unincorporated bodies. Registration as an overseas company is only required when it has some degree of physical presence in the UK.  After registering a business with the UK government body, named Companies House, overseas firms must register to pay corporation tax within three months. The process of setting up a business in the UK requires as few as thirteen days, compared to the European average of 32 days, which puts the country in first place in Europe and sixth place in the world for ease of establishing a business.  As of April 2016, companies have to declare their Persons of Significant Control (PSC’s).  This change in policy recognizes that individuals other than named directors can have significant influence on a company’s activity and that this information should be transparent.  More information is available at this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-the-people-with-significant-control-requirements-for-companies-and-limited-liability-partnerships .  Companies House maintains a free, publicly searchable directory, available at this link: https://www.gov.uk/get-information-about-a-company .  

The UK offers a welcoming environment to foreign investors, with foreign equity ownership restrictions in only a limited number of sectors covered by the Investing Across Sectors indicators.  As in all other EU member countries, foreign equity ownership in the air transportation sector is limited to 49 percent for investors from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA). Furthermore, the Industry Act (1975) enables the UK government to prohibit transfer to foreign owners of 30 percent or more of important UK manufacturing businesses, if such a transfer would be contrary to the interests of the country.  While these provisions have never been used in practice, they are still included in the Investing Across Sectors indicators, as these strictly measure ownership restrictions defined in the laws.

Special Section on the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies

The British Overseas Territories (BOTs) comprise Anguilla, British Antarctic Territory, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Turks and Caicos Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus.  The BOTs retain a substantial measure of responsibility for their own affairs. Local self-government is usually provided by an Executive Council and elected legislature. Governors or Commissioners are appointed by the Crown on the advice of the British Foreign Secretary, and retain responsibility for external affairs, defense, and internal security. However, the UK imposed direct rule on the Turks and Caicos Islands in August 2009 after an inquiry found evidence of corruption and incompetence.  Its Premier was removed and its constitution was suspended. The UK restored Home Rule following elections in November 2012.

Many of the territories are now broadly self-sufficient.  However, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) maintains development assistance programs in St. Helena, Montserrat, and Pitcairn.  This includes budgetary aid to meet the islands’ essential needs and development assistance to help encourage economic growth and social development in order to promote economic self-sustainability.  In addition, all other BOTs receive small levels of assistance through “cross-territory” programs for issues such as environmental protection, disaster prevention, HIV/AIDS and child protection. The UK also lends to the BOTs as needed, up to a pre-set limit, but assumes no liability for them if they encounter financial difficulty.

Seven of the BOTs have financial centers:  Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  These Territories have committed to the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS) for the automatic exchange of taxpayer financial account information.  They are already exchanging information with the UK, and began exchanging information with other jurisdictions under the CRS from September 2017. 

The OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes has rated Anguilla as “partially compliant” with the internationally agreed tax standard.  Although Anguilla sought to upgrade its rating in 2017, it still remains at “partially compliant” as of April 2019. The Global Forum has rated the other six territories as “largely compliant.”  Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar and the Turks and Caicos Islands have also committed in reciprocal bilateral arrangements with the UK to hold beneficial ownership information in central registers or similarly effective systems, and to provide UK law enforcement authorities with near real-time access to this information.  These arrangements came into effect in June 2017. 

Anguilla:  Anguilla is a neutral tax jurisdiction.  There are no income, capital gains, estate, profit or other forms of direct taxation on either individuals or corporations, for residents or non-residents of the jurisdiction.  The territory has no exchange rate controls. Non-Anguillan nationals may purchase property, but the transfer of land to an alien includes a 12.5 percent tax.

British Virgin Islands:  The government of the British Virgin Islands welcomes foreign direct investment and offers a series of incentive packages aimed at reducing the cost of doing business on the islands.  This includes relief from corporation tax payments over specific periods but companies must pay an initial registration fee and an annual license fee to the BVI Financial Services Commission.  Crown land grants are not available to non-British Virgin Islanders, but private land can be leased or purchased following the approval of an Alien Land Holding License. Stamp duty is imposed on transfer of real estate and the transfer of shares in a BVI company owning real estate in the BVI at a rate of 4 percent for belongers and 12 percent for non-belongers.  There is no corporate income tax, capital gains tax, branch tax, or withholding tax for companies incorporated under the BVI Business Companies Act. Payroll tax is imposed on every employer and self-employed person who conducts business in BVI. The tax is paid at a graduated rate depending upon the size of the employer. The current rates are 10 percent for small employers (those which have a payroll of less than USD 150,000, a turnover of less than USD 300,000 and fewer than 7 employees) and 14 percent for larger employers. Eight percent of the total remuneration is deducted from the employee, the remainder of the liability is met by the employer. The first USD 10,000 of remuneration is free from payroll tax.

Cayman Islands:  There are no direct taxes in the Cayman Islands.  In most districts, the government charges stamp duty of 7.5 percent on the value of real estate at sale; however, certain districts, including Seven Mile Beach, are subject to a rate of nine percent.  There is a one percent fee payable on mortgages of less than KYD 300,000, and one and a half percent on mortgages of KYD 300,000 or higher. There are no controls on the foreign ownership of property and land.  Investors can receive import duty waivers on equipment, building materials, machinery, manufacturing materials, and other tools.

Falkland Islands:  Companies located in the Falkland Islands are charged corporation tax at 21 percent on the first GBP one million and 26 percent for all amounts in excess of GBP one million.  The individual income tax rate is 21 percent for earnings below USD 15,694 (GBP 12,000) and 26 percent above this level.

Gibraltar:  The government of Gibraltar encourages foreign investment.  Gibraltar has a buoyant economy with a stable currency and few restrictions on moving capital or repatriating dividends.  The corporate income tax rate is 20 percent for utility, energy, and fuel supply companies, and 10 percent for all other companies.  There are no capital or sales taxes. Gibraltar is currently a part of the EU and receives EU funding for projects that improve the territory’s economic development.

Montserrat:  The government of Montserrat welcomes new private foreign investment.  Foreign investors are permitted to acquire real estate, subject to the acquisition of an Alien Land Holding license which carries a fee of five percent of the purchase price.  The government also imposes stamp and transfer fees of 2.6 percent of the property value on all real estate transactions. Foreign investment in Montserrat is subject to the same taxation rules as local investment, and is eligible for tax holidays and other incentives.  Montserrat has preferential trade agreements with the United States, Canada, and Australia. The government allows 100 percent foreign ownership of businesses but the administration of public utilities remains wholly in the public sector.

St. Helena:  The island of St. Helena is open to foreign investment and welcomes expressions of interest from companies wanting to invest.  Its government is able to offer tax based incentives which will be considered on the merits of each project – particularly tourism projects.  All applications are processed by Enterprise St. Helena, the business development agency.

Pitcairn Islands:  The Pitcairn Islands have approximately 50 residents, with a workforce of approximately 29 employed in 10 full-time equivalent roles.  The territory does not have an airstrip or safe harbor. Residents exist on fishing, subsistence farming, and handcrafts.

The Turks and Caicos Islands:  The islands operate an “open arms” investment policy.  Through the policy, the government commits to a streamlined business licensing system, a responsive immigration policy to give investment security, access to government-owned land under long-term leases, and a variety of duty concessions to qualified investors.  The islands have a “no tax” status, but property purchasers must pay a stamp duty on purchases over USD 25,000. Depending on the island, the stamp duty rate may be up to 6.5 percent for purchases up to USD 250,000, eight percent for purchases USD 250,001 to USD 500,000, and 10 percent for purchases over USD500,000.

The Crown Dependencies:

The Crown Dependencies are the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man.  The Crown Dependencies are not part of the UK but are self-governing dependencies of the Crown. They have their own directly elected legislative assemblies, administrative, fiscal and legal systems and their own courts of law. The Crown Dependencies are not represented in the UK Parliament.

Jersey’s standard rate of corporate tax is zero percent.  The exceptions to this standard rate are financial service companies, which are taxed at 10 percent, utility companies, which are taxed at 20 percent, and income specifically derived from Jersey property rentals or Jersey property development, taxed at 20 percent. VAT is not applicable in Jersey as it is not part of the EU VAT tax area.

Guernsey has a zero percent rate of corporate tax.  Some exceptions include some specific banking activities, taxed at 10 percent, utility companies, which are taxed at 20 percent, Guernsey residents’ assessable income is taxed at 20 percent, and income derived from land and buildings is taxed at 20 percent

The Isle of Man’s corporate standard tax is zero percent.  The exceptions to this standard rate are income received from banking business, which is taxed at 10 percent and income received from land and property in the Isle of Man which is taxed at 20 percent. In addition, a 10 percent tax rate also applies to companies who carry on a retail business in the Isle of Man and have taxable income in excess of £500,000 from that business.  VAT is applicable in the Isle of Man as it is part of the EU customs territory.

This tax data is current as of April 2019.  

Outward Investment

The UK is one of the largest outward investors in the world, often protected through Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), which have been concluded with many countries.  The UK’s international investment position abroad (outward investment) increased from GBP 1,696.5 billion in 2017 to GBP 1,713.3 billion in 2018. By the end of 2018 the UK’s stock of outward FDI was GBP 1,713 billion, a 52 rise percent since 2002.  The main destination for UK outward FDI is the United States, which accounted for approximately 23 percent of UK outward FDI stocks at the end of 2017. Other key destinations include the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and Ireland which, together with the United States, account for a little under half of the UK’s outward FDI stock.

Europe and the Americas remain the dominant areas for British FDI positions abroad, accounting for 16 of the top 20 destinations for total UK outward FDI.  The UK’s international investment position within the Americas was GBP 401.9 billion in 2017. This is the third largest recorded value in the time series since 2006 for the Americas.  The United States, at GBP 329.3 billion, continued to be the largest destination for UK international investment positions abroad within the Americas in 2017.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD) 2018 USD 2,115,000 2017 USD 2,622,000 https://data.worldbank.org/country/united-kingdom  
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2016 USD 452,000 2017 USD 747,571 BEA data available at www.bea.gov/international/factsheet   /
Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions) 2016 USD 329,200 2017 USD 614,865 https://www.selectusa.gov/country-fact-sheet/United-Kingdom  
Total inbound stock of FDI as percent host GDP 2016 17.7 percent 2018 66.80 percent UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World percent20Investment percent20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx  


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (GBP Pounds, Billions)
Inward Direct Investment 2017 Outward Direct Investment 2017
Total Inward $1,336.5 Proportion Total Outward $1,313.3 Proportion
USA $351 26.3 percent USA $258 19.6 percent
Netherlands $228 17.1 percent Netherlands $1532 11.7 percent
Luxembourg $116 8.7 percent Luxembourg $112 8.5 percent
Japan $78 5.8 percent France $79 6.0 percent
Germany $64 4.8 percent Spain $71 5.4 percent

Notes:

The UK Department for International Trade Core Statistics Book denominates these figures in GBP. Due to a volatile GBP/USD exchange rate in 2018, Post has decided to leave the numbers in their denominated currency as to maintain the highest accuracy.

The current fourth ranking for Inward Direct Investment is the UK offshore island of Jersey, a self-governing dependency of the United Kingdom. However, we have chosen to focus here on country-to-country FDI only.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, U.S. Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries Amount Proportion All Countries Amount Proportion All Countries Amount Proportion
United States $1,150,129 34 percent United States $711,877 37 percent United States $438,252 33 percent
Ireland $246,975 7 percent Ireland $200,933 10 percent France $108,245 8 percent
France $191,416 6 percent Japan $126,848 6 percent Germany $107,224 8 percent
Japan $179,273 5 percent Luxembourg $104,678 5 percent Netherlands $70,922 5 percent
Germany $173,635 5 percent France $83,170 4 percent Japan $52,425 4 percent
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