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Special economic zones (SEZ) – benefits

Exemption from income tax and real property tax and availability of attractive commercial lands – these are just some of the investment incentives offered in the Special Economic Zones in Poland. It is worth taking a look at the advantages of operating in the Special Economic Zones, especially in the context of the government's recent decisions on extending their existence.

What are the Special Economic Zones?

A Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is a designated, non-residential part of the Polish territory where a business activity may be pursued according to the Special Economic Zones Act of 20 October 1994 (consolidated text in Journal of Laws of 2007, No. 42, Item 274). The SEZs are established to boost economic growth, especially by creating new jobs, developing specified industries and expanding exports.

There are now 14 such zones in Poland. The oldest SEZ, EURO-PARK MIELEC, dates back to 1995, whereas the youngest one was set up in Cracow in 1998. Originally, the SEZs were established for 20 years. In 2008, the lifetime of all SEZs was extended until 31 December 2020, and just recently the Council of Ministers decided to keep them alive for another 6 years (until 2026). The longer existence of the SEZs is particularly important for investors working on low rate of return projects, such as in the automotive industry, who would not decide to open their plants in Poland if the SEZs existed until 2020 only.

The benefits?

The main benefit of the Special Economic Zones is the tax exemption of income earned on the business activities carried on within the SEZ. Enterprises which locate their business in a SEZ may benefit from the state aid provided in the form of income tax exemptions on account of: new investments or new jobs. The amount of aid depends on the maximum aid intensity defined for the region where the investment is to be made, and on the amount of costs eligible for aid. The maximum aid intensity is 50% for projects implemented in the following provinces: Lubelskie, Podkarpackie, Warmińsko-Mazurskie, Podlaskie, Opolskie, Świętokrzyskie, Małopolskie, Lubuskie, Łódzkie and Kujawsko-Pomorskie, and 40% in other provinces. Warsaw is an exception and the maximum aid level there is 30%. Moreover, the aid granted to small enterprises is increased by 20 percentage points, and to medium-sized enterprises – by 10 points. This does not apply to the transport industry enterprises.

Another incentive for investment in a Special Economic Zones is the exemption from real property tax which an enterprise may enjoy on one of two legal grounds. The first one is Article 10(1) of the Act of 2 October 2003 amending the Special Economic Zones Act and certain other acts (Journal of Laws of 2003, No. 188, Item 1840). It is addressed only to large enterprises which carry on their business on the basis of a permit issued before 1 January 2001. A lot more beneficiaries may enjoy the exemption from real property tax on the basis of Article 7(3) of the Local Taxes and Fees Act of 12 January 1991 (consolidated text in Journal of Laws of 2010, No. 95, Item 613) which stipulates that the municipality council may pass a resolution exempting entities other than those provided for in that Act and in the above-mentioned Act amending the SEZ Act and certain other acts.

Another benefit of the Special Economic Zones is the availability of attractive land with all the infrastructure  for business purposes. Furthermore, it is possible to buy or rent the real properties already existing in a SEZ (including office space for e.g. shared service centres, research and development facilities or call centres). In some zones it is possible to implement BTS projects (built to suit) and then lease them out.

Yet another advantage is the administrative support from the SEZ administrators in legal and organisational issues related to the project implementation (utility suppliers, local authorities etc.) and the so-called investment aftercare.

Special Economic Zones in Poland

SEZ Provinces Area in hectares
Kamienna Góra SEZSE dolnośląskie, wielkopolskie 367,14
Katowice SEZ śląskie, małopolskie, opolskie 2004,83
Kostrzyń-Słubice SEZ lubuskie, zachodniopomorskie, wielkopolskie 1454,47
Krakow Technology Park małopolskie, podkarpackie 558,72
Legnica SEZ dolnośląskie 1059,26
Łódź SEZ łódzkie, wielkopolskie, mazowieckie 1276,63
SEZ Euro-Park Mielec podkarpackie, małopolskie, lubelskie, zachodniopomorskie 1246,00
Pomeranian SEZ pomorskie, kujawsko-pomorskie, zachodniopomorskie, wielkopolskie 1323,23
Słupsk SEZ pomorskie, zachodniopomorskie, wielkopolskie 824,35
SEZ Starachowice świętokrzyskie, mazowieckie, opolskie, łódzkie, lubelskie 612,91
Suwałki SEZ podlaskie, warmińsko-mazurskie, mazowieckie 342,77
Tarnobrzeg SEZ Euro-Park Wisłosan podkarpackie, mazowieckie, świętokrzyskie, lubelskie, dolnośląskie 1632,31
Wałbrzych SEZ dolnośląskie, opolskie, wielkopolskie, lubuskie 2212,23
Warmia-Mazury SEZ warmińsko-mazurskie, mazowieckie 914,51

How to begin business activity in a Special Economic Zone?

The prerequisite to begin a business activity in a special economic zone is a permit granted by the zone administrator on behalf of the Minister of Economy. The permit indicates, among other things, the type of business activity, the minimum employment and the minimum amount of investment expenditures. The rules of investment in SEZ are the same for Polish and foreign companies.

We would like to invite you to have a look at PhD Marcin Jamroży talking about the tax aspects of SEZ activities in "Blajer talks business" on TVN CNBC.

We will be glad to answer any questions if you are interested in this issue.  We can also provide comprehensive tax advisory in Poland.

We also encourage you to read the other articles of our experts relating special economic zones in Poland: