USA Malta Tax Treaty: In Force – 1st January 2011

The Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income between the USA and Malta (‘Tax Treaty’) was signed by both countries in August 2008. Instruments of ratification were exchanged on 23 November 2010, following which it came into force on 1st January, 2011.
To read the Tax Treaty, please go here
Mainly based on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (‘OECD’) Model Tax Convention and the US Model Treaty, the Tax Treaty is intended to eliminate barriers to cross border trade and investment while preventing tax avoidance.
It is designed to ensure that US and Maltese citizens are taxed only once on their profits and income, and to limit withholding payments on dividends, royalties and other unearned income.
With respect to active income, generally in line with the OECD model articles, the US and Maltese authorities shall not tax business profits derived from sources within their countries by residents of the other country unless business activities by the foreign person or business constitute a permanent establishment. Furthermore, residents of one country providing services in the other also are not subject to tax in that country as long as their activities do not exceed specific minimums.
With respect to passive income, the Double Tax Agreement contains provisions dealing with reduced source-country withholding tax on dividend, interest, and royalty payments:
  • Cross-Border Dividend Payments: dividends paid by a resident of the United States which are beneficially owned by a resident of Malta are subject to source country taxation at a maximum rate of 15%. However, where the beneficial owner of the dividend directly owns 10% or more of the voting power of the payor, such rate is reduced to 5%. With respect to dividends paid by a resident of Malta which are beneficially owned by a resident of the United States, the tax charged by Malta on the gross amount of the dividends shall not exceed that Malta tax chargeable on the profits out of which the dividends are paid (there is generally no withholding tax on Malta-source dividends as a matter of Maltese domestic law). Furthermore, dividends paid by a resident of one Contracting State which are beneficially owned by a pension fund that is a resident of the other Contracting State are exempt from source country taxation, so long as such dividends are not derived from a trade or business carried on by the pension fund or through an associated enterprise.
  • Cross-Border Interest Payments: under the Double Tax Agreement, interest paid by a resident of one Contracting State which is beneficially owned by a resident of the other cntracting State is generally subject to source country taxation at a maximum rate of 10%. However, interest arising in the United States that is contingent interest which does not qualify as “portfolio interest” for U.S. federal income tax purposes may be subject to U.S. tax at a rate of 15%. In addition, interest that is an excess inclusion with respect to a residual interest in a Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit (REMIC) may be taxed by each Contracting State in accordance with its domestic law.
  • Cross-Border Royalty payments: the Double Tax Agreement limits the source country taxation of royalties arising in one Contracting State which are beneficially owned by a resident of the other Contracting State to 10%. The royalty concept extends to gains on alienation of qualifying intangible property to the extent that “such gain is contingent on the productivity, use or disposition of the property”.
Under the Double Taxation Agreement pensions and similar payments are generally taxable only in the residence state. Furthermore, the residence country generally has exclusive entitlement to tax gains on alienation of property. However, special rules apply in the case of for instance, transfers of immovable property, business property of a Permanent Establishment, containers or ships or aircraft used in international traffic.
For a company to qualify for treaty benefits, it must satisfy one of the Limitation of Benefit article tests, including a publicly traded test, an active trade or business test and an ownership and base erosion test.
The Double Tax Agreement also includes comprehensive and far reaching provisions allowing for full exchange of information between the US and Maltese revenue authorities.