Is Cyprus a tax haven?

Yes, but not in the bad sense of this word. Cyprus is a member state of the European Union. As such, it is subject to all the relevant EU directives, in particular ones concerning tax matters. Cyprus has a comprehensive system of taxation, which just happens to be quite business-friendly. It has one of the lowest corporate income tax rates in Europe (12.5%), which can be further reduced – in some cases down to zero – by a whole range of incentives. As such, Cyprus is effectively a tax haven for several types of cross-border businesses.

In the past century, a typical offshore tax haven was a country that offered a full exemption from tax, no accounting, record-keeping and audit requirements and significant secrecy protection to businesses that were registered in that country, but effectively did their business elsewhere.

Today, due to a range of actions emanating from the OECD and the EU Code of Conduct Group (COCG), in particular the BEPS (Base Erosion and Profits Shifting) initiative, the typical zero-tax havens, such as Belize or Seychelles, have been forced to implement sweeping changes in their national laws and have somewhat lost their attractiveness. Many of the old-school “tax havens” are also routinely blacklisted by individual countries and financial institutions – for example, by imposing a ban or punitive taxation on payments made to or received from companies registered in such jurisdictions.

Cyprus does not have those problems, as it has a fully compliant national tax system already. At the same time, it has a very appealing business environment, clearly aimed at attracting international business. In this sense, Cyprus is definitely a tax haven.