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How to Navigate the Complexities of Travel Insurance Tax

Hector Fernandez
February 16, 2022

Insurance is a dynamic sector in constant flux to accommodate with insured’s needs. An increase in holidays abroad following WWII saw the need for Assistance insurance for any unforeseen events that occurred away from the insured’s home country. Council Directive 84/641/EEC regulated Assistance insurance for the first time, and a new class of insurance was created. This was in addition to the 17 previously regulated classes outlined in Directive 73/239/EEC of non-life insurance and was called Assistance (Class insurance 18).

Travel insurance evolution

Initially, the insured was covered by a policy that provided aid for any event travelling abroad (loss of passport, assistance with any problem in the car etc). The insurer created a range of support with call centres, supplier networks and additional services to help solve difficulties when travelling abroad.

Subsequently, following the insured’s requirements, insurance companies and travel agents created travel insurance that includes a wide range of services. These consist of several protections within different classes of business. This is where the tax complexity of travel insurance policies begins. It’s an amalgamation of coverages, and the application of the correct fiscal treatment needs to be analysed in each territory.

Correct tax treatment in travel insurance

When weighing the correct application of tax for travel insurance, businesses must consider the following: location of risk (LoR), class of businesses and the correct tax approach.

Location of risk: Directive 2009/138/EC Article 13 must be followed in the following circumstances:

  • Business travel: The LoR of the employer’s policy to cover their employees will be located where the business is located.
  • Individuals: The LoR will be the territory in which the policyholder is habitually resident unless the policy covers travel or holiday risks for four months or less. In this case, the LoR is the Member State where the policyholder took out the policy.

Class of business affected: As mentioned previously, one of the complexities of travel insurance is determining the classes of business affected. It’s common to see, in these policy types, multiple coverages such as medical assistance cover, loss or damage to baggage, travel delays or cancellations, loss of documents or money, personal accident, repatriation etc. Insurers must adequately identify these coverage details to ensure the compliant tax treatment is used.

Taxability: This step is crucial. The correct treatment of the policies could vary the liabilities to be paid, the different taxes and/or levies and parafiscal charges to be included in the tax calculation. This means that the tax treatment can change by country. It’s necessary to identify the tax liability or exemption based on the class of business and the geographical location.

Insurers must understand the importance of the vital details associated with travel insurance. Determining LoR, class of business affected and taxability ensures the correct amount is paid and submitted to the proper jurisdictions.

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Author

Hector Fernandez

Hector, a principal compliance services representative, joined the country team at Sovos in 2019 and specializes in Spanish insurance premium taxes. He has eight years’ experience working in Spain (Broseta Abogados) and Dublin (HERTZ) in tax departments dealing with direct and indirect taxes and has completed a Degree in Law and a Masters in International and Community Taxes. He is a Member of the Bar association Law Madrid (ICAM).
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