How to Navigate Marine Insurance IPT Treatment across Europe

James Brown
June 4, 2021

There are a variety of different approaches to Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) treatment for marine insurance across Europe. Before looking at how individual countries treat marine insurance, it is worth noting the challenges in determining the country entitled to levy IPT and any associated charges.

The location of risk relating to marine vessels falls within article 13(13)(b) of the Solvency II Directive. This outlines that in the case of ‘vehicles of any type’ the risk location is the ‘Member State of registration’. There is no definition provided for ‘vehicles of any type’. So there is some uncertainty as to whether this is limited to land motor vehicles or whether it extends to marine vessels and aircraft. Most EU jurisdictions adopt the latter, broader approach, but Malta limits it to motor vehicles.

Marine Insurance IPT Across Europe

Additionally, the German tax authority has been known to rely on a 2017 decision made by the Cologne Fiscal Court to levy IPT in circumstances where a P&I club member had a registered office in Germany, but no ship was registered there. This raises the possibility of double taxation. This is with IPT potentially levied in both Germany and the country of the registration of the vessel. The Law on the Modernisation of Insurance Tax passed in December last year.

Once an insurer has navigated the choppy waters of the location of risk rules, regimes across Europe vary considerably. Marine insurance is a class of business that sees a number of IPT exemptions. Some countries like Bulgaria and Ireland offer fairly broad exemptions for damage and loss to marine vessels.

Other countries adopt a more nuanced approach in distinguishing between commercial vessels and pleasure craft. Belgium offers an exemption in the case of the former, whereas they levy IPT as normal in the case of the latter. A similar distinction exists in France between vessels conducting commercial activities and those operating for pleasure.

Germany has a reduced IPT rate of 3% in relation to marine hull. Where the ship exclusively serves commercial purposes and has insurance against perils of the sea.

Denmark has an exemption for its tax on non-life insurance, but it does impose a separate tax on pleasure boats. Denmark calculates on the sum insured of the vessels themselves.

Reduced Rate Extension

One final point of note is the extension of the regime for the reduced rate, like that in the Portuguese territory of Madeira, in April. The extension lasts until the end of this year at least. The European Commission has extended the State aid initiative which gave rise to the reduction until 31 December 2023, so it may be that this will be reflected in Portuguese legislation in due course.

It’s essential for insurers to understand the tricky location of risk rules associated with marine insurance. In addition to the various approaches taken by different countries in Europe. This ensures companies pay the correct amount of Marine Insurance Tax to the correct administration.

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Author

James Brown

James Brown is a Principal Compliance Services Representative at Sovos. His academic background is in Law having studied the subject at undergraduate level, and he has since enjoyed various roles in the IPT Managed Services Department at Sovos.
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