The Cyprus IP Box regime: designed for ambitious high-tech entrepreneurs

October 17, 2022 10:50 am

Intellectual Property (IP) protection is not always high on the list of priorities for start-up founders immersed in the day-to-day struggle to turn an inspired idea into a successful business.

Quite often, the first time entrepreneurs seriously consider securing their IP is during the first seed funding round.

But the sooner business owners think about protecting their IP, the better. A good IP Box regime both protects the IP and provides lower effective tax rates on income derived from it. Not only can effective structuring of IP early on make a business a more attractive target for investment, it can also allow a business to grow faster and invest more in research and development.

Cyprus IP regime

The Cyprus IP Box regime has recently been updated and is now one of the most attractive options in the world. It offers full international protection for IP assets and significant financial benefits. It is a regime fully compliant with international developments, applied in line with the OECD’s guidance, and reviewed and assessed according to the EU Code of Conduct.

Perhaps most importantly, 80% of profits earned from the use of intangible assets (IP) are deducted for tax purposes. Only 20% of IP income is taxed.

The updated IP Box regime only adds to Cyprus’ reputation as one of Europe’s most business-friendly jurisdictions. It is one of a wide range of benefits that have persuaded a growing number of international start-ups to relocate to Cyprus, in particular businesses developing software and mobile applications where proper IP structuring is essential.

An international business hub

Many businesses deliver their services remotely to a range of international clients, and can effectively be headquartered anywhere. Increasing numbers are choosing Cyprus as a base for both its growing reputation as an international business hub, driven by its EU location that is also next to Asia, English speaking population and zero dividend tax, as well as its family-friendly amenities, which are important for employee relocation.

Cyprus has a well-developed ecosystem of international professionals and business services, making it easy to do international business, and access financial and legal expertise.

Cyprus’ efficient tax regime is clearly a major attraction. As well as the tax advantages of the IP Box, Cyprus-resident companies benefit from incentives such as zero withholding taxes on dividend payments and a wide network of Double Tax Treaties.

Employees enjoy a range of personal income tax incentives. The free access to the labour market for spouses of Highly Skilled 3rd country national employees is an additional benefit.

Trident Trust is your relocation partner

The Cypriot government is determined to grow the country’s high-tech sector by attracting new talents and promoting headquartering in Cyprus. The IP Box regime is part of that effort.

Trident Trust is a trusted partner for international entrepreneurs looking to relocate to the island. We offer a concierge service, helping busy business people quickly settle into life on the island. We also provide a full suite of corporate services.

We help IT and technology start-ups access and take full advantage of the IP Box regime. For example, when setting up a Cypriot company we can apply for a tax ruling to show the business is entitled to use the regime.

That may not seem hugely important during the early start-up phase, but it secures the position for the future, pre-empting any possible challenges from Cypriot tax authorities. That has resulted in significant savings for our clients.

We also advise companies on creating substance in Cyprus, helping them recruit employees and rent a physical office.

Finally, when the time is right, we help bring entrepreneurs and investors together, ensuring a good fit in terms of what each expects from any funding agreement.

The IP Box regime is just one of a wide range of benefits for technology businesses headquartering in Cyprus. From tax efficiency and property to recruitment and lifestyle, Trident Trust can help you enjoy them all.

CASE STUDY I

Our client started an edtech SaaS company in 2014 in the UK. In 2017 they began thinking about relocating the business to lower its operating costs. After consultation with their legal advisors, they chose Cyprus. We asked them to share their thoughts on the experience.

At what point in the development of your business did you start thinking about IP protection and the structures around it (for example, was it before you started looking for venture capital funding)? What influenced your thinking on IP protection or on the structure in general?

The hard truth is that for most start-ups, at the very beginning, there is seldom any significant thought put into the protection of IP. Unless a start-up is based on a patent, some very specific research, or comes out of a university/research centre as a spin-off, in which cases IP protection is the number one thing on their list, normal start-ups don’t have the bandwidth,

the financial resources and the expertise to look seriously into intellectual property and secure their assets. Obviously, this can lead to some huge issue and lots of additional costs as the company matures.

More or less, it was the same for us. Our company started as a side project and even though we had an academic background and were aware of the necessity of protecting our IP, this is not something that you can afford to devote too much time on when you are a tiny team and striving every day to keep the project alive. Only when we started to seriously get funding and talk to VCs did we become aware of how crucial this matter is. We understood that unless we had our IP sorted out, no serious due diligence process could move forward. So a seed funding round is usually the first stage where a start-up thinks more seriously about IP. But even at that stage it isn’t easy to create a hyper-optimized structure. Subsequent funding rounds, adding more resources to the company, make it easier to bring in experts to help out.

Why did you choose the IP Box regime in Cyprus? Or structuring via Cyprus?

I have to say that to us Cyprus seemed almost like a natural place to do business and set up our headquarters. The IP Box wasn’t the major factor at that time, but it was a nice addition to what we could get.

There were several reasons why it made sense for the company to be established in Cyprus, even though we were a fully remote business with international customers. First and foremost, I was based in Cyprus for family reasons and as I was interacting with local professionals it became apparent that Cyprus had a well-developed ecosystem of international professionals and business services. At a time when Greece was deep into a financial crisis with lots of political, economic and social instability, Cyprus seemed like a great fit. It was easy to do international business and access expertise in financial and legal matters, and at the same time nurture personal connections with all stakeholders. So why set up a business in London or US when you can do everything locally, equally fast and at a fraction of the cost? This is how we ended up choosing Cyprus and very soon started hiring locally not just for financial services but also for marketing or tech positions.

What are the benefits of Cyprus more generally as a place for business and a place to live?

Cyprus is a great place to combine business with a comfortable lifestyle. It’s a safe place, with friendly people, great services and amenities. You can drive from your home to your office and then to the beach in less than 10 minutes. You might need an extra flight to reach some European hubs but in the era of remote work and online meetings this becomes increasingly less of an issue. Cyprus is an ideal location to set up shop and have amazing work-life balance.

How did professionals in Cyprus support you around IP protection or your corporate structure in general?

Cyprus, as a smaller country, relies mostly on personal social networks and recommendations. We were lucky enough to meet and connect with some great professionals who steered us to the right direction and were happy to introduce us to other very helpful professionals. Once people realize that you are serious about investing in the country, they go out of the way to be helpful.

CASE STUDY II

Our clients started an iOS start-up company developing applications related to the health and well-being. They established their company in Cyprus in 2019 due to the incentives provided by the Cyprus Government to ICT companies, including relocation packages for employees. We asked them to share their thoughts on the experience.

At what point in the development of your business did you start thinking about IP protection and the structures around it (for example, was it before you started looking for venture capital funding)? What influenced your thinking on IP protection?

As our line of business revolves around Computer Software and mobile applications, proper IP structuring is essential for protecting our original work, growing faster and adding value to our products. With that in mind, IP structuring was a priority for us since the early stages of incorporation.

Why did you choose the IP Box regime in Cyprus?

The IP Box regime in Cyprus explicitly includes computer software, which is relevant to our business. The benefits of the IP Box regime allow our business to grow faster and invest more in research and development.

What are the benefits of Cyprus more generally as a place for business and a place to live?

Cyprus is a Eurozone country, facilitating global transactions while providing the stability of the currency at the same time. Over the years, it has evolved towards becoming a preferred hub for entrepreneurs across Europe and Asia. Cyprus offers modern infrastructure for businesses, as well as a low cost of living and doing business. Last but not least, the Mediterranean climate and its natural beauty make Cyprus a location of choice for employee relocation.

How did Trident Trust support you with regards to IP protection and structuring in Cyprus?

Trident helped us discover various benefits and schemes offered by Cyprus government, and better understand how these could be beneficial to our business. In addition, Trident guided us through the process of developing our intellectual property strategy by preparing the required material and efficiently handling various aspects of the transition.

Anything else you wish to add from your experience in dealing with Cyprus?

We were happy to discover how other members of Cyprus’s entrepreneurial ecosystem were prepared to share their knowledge and support us in various ways.

If you want to learn more about Cyprus and understand how to protect your IP, please contact Christina Economou at [email protected] or call on +357 258 20 650