IPT: Location of Risk and Territoriality

James Brown
May 23, 2023

Much of the discussion on the Location of Risk triggering a country’s entitlement to levy insurance premium tax (IPT) and parafiscal charges focuses on the rules for different types of insurance. European Union (EU) Directive 2009/138/EC (Solvency II) set out these rules. However, a related topic of growing importance in this area concerns territoriality, i.e. the geographical scope of taxing policies and the different approaches taken by countries in Europe.

It is important to note that this topic should not lead to double taxation for policies involving EU insurers and EU risks becoming an issue as this would be in contravention of Solvency II. It is more that a lack of consistency of geographical scope application across Europe could lead to cases of insurers being unsure of whether some policies should be taxed and where this should be.

Why is territoriality important?

There are several fixed energy installations that are commonly situated offshore from a given country. Examples of these are oil rigs, gas platforms and wind farms. The current push towards renewable energy sources could see countries increase their use of wind power in particular. This could lead to an increase in fixed energy installations in future.

These types of offshore installations are expensive forms of property and there is a need for insurance to provide coverage for any damage suffered. Coverage would also typically include associated liability, business interruption, and other financial loss coverage.

What is the approach to taxing offshore insurance policies?

Based on the rules at EU level, insurance relating to offshore installations is generally interpreted as taxable in the country the property is situated. This is because they fall within the definition of being a building if they’re fixed to the seabed. This raises the question of when to consider an offshore installation as situated in a country.

In some European countries, the position is fairly clear. For example, for IPT purposes the territorial scope of the United Kingdom (UK) consists of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and waters within 12 nautical miles of their coastline (its territorial sea). As such, insurance for installations within this territorial scope is taxable in the UK, whereas anything beyond the 12 nautical miles is not.

Some countries like Germany refer in their IPT law to the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes this zone, mandating it can be no more than 200 nautical miles from a country’s coastline. Again, the taxability in these countries is simple based on an application of the limit in place.

There has been a lack of clarity in those countries where the IPT legislation does not make reference to any geographical scope. In the past insurers may have interpreted this as a country’s decision not to tax offshore risks. There are obvious concerns with this presumption if the tax authority becomes aware of insurance provided within its territorial sea or EEZ but without any tax payment. The waters are further muddied if legislation for other taxes (like VAT) refer to one of these limits as there is an argument that this limit could be extended to apply to IPT as well.

Are there any changes in the pipeline in this area?

We are aware of an ongoing court case within an EU jurisdiction on the applicability of IPT to policies covering offshore installations. It may be several years before the outcome of the case is known if it goes through the appeals procedure, potentially up to the European Court of Justice. In the meantime, insurers may consider taxing offshore policies even where the geographical limit of a country is not defined in its IPT law. This is with a view to avoiding any such dispute themselves.

Help for Location of Risk and Territoriality?

Need to discuss IPT and territoriality further? Sign up for our webinar IPT: Location of Risk and Territoriality in the EU on 8 June 2023.

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James Brown

James Brown is a Consultant 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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