Special Economic Zones are separate areas within the territory of Poland, where Polish and foreign entrepreneurs can conduct business on special, more preferential conditions than in the rest of the country.
There are currently 14 zones in Poland:
- separate area,
- under the management of a single entity,
- offering benefits to businesses,
- the granting of investment incentives depends on the location of the investment within the zone.
Entrepreneurs who wish to take advantage of SEZ facilities must obtain a support decision (under the Law on Support for New Investments). A support decision is an administrative decision allowing an entrepreneur to benefit from income tax exemption up to the maximum amount specified in the decision. The decision is issued at the request of the entrepreneur, by the minister responsible for the economy. It is issued for a fixed period, for 10, 12 or 15 years. The period for which the decision is issued depends on the public aid intensity set for the area.
The application for the issuance of a decision on support is submitted to the relevant Administrator of the area in question before the implementation of the new investment begins.
The application shall be submitted along with:
- the form of information presented when applying for support,
- financial statements for the last 3 fiscal years/PIT/financial statements and statement of the parent company as to the last fiscal year,
- business plan of the new investment,
- statements - a list of these is provided by the Administrator.
Not every type of business can be carried out within a zone; restrictions result from the provisions of the zone ordinances and regulations of the Council of Ministers. An entrepreneur who undertakes economic activity in a special economic zone on the basis of a permit is entitled to benefit from regional support in the form of a tax exemption for two reasons: capital expenditures incurred or the creation of new workplaces.
The right to benefit from tax exemptions is granted to the entrepreneur on condition that he undertakes to:
- fulfill the quantitative criteria (the entrepreneur's commitment to incur eligible costs of the new investment in a given amount, which depends on the unemployment rate in the district),
- fulfill the quality criteria (applies to the service and industrial sectors),
- maintaining ownership of the assets to which the investment expenditures were related for a period of not less than 5 years from the date of their entry into the records of fixed assets and intangible and legal assets (3 years in other cases, i.e. micro, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs),
- running the business (maintaining the investment) for a period of not less than 5 years from the date of completion of the new investment in the case of large entrepreneurs (3 years in other cases, as above),
- hiring a certain number of employees and maintaining the declared jobs for a period of not less than 5 years in the case of large entrepreneurs (3 years in other cases, as above) - in the case of using support for the creation of new jobs,
- a condition for granting support for a new investment is the share of the entrepreneur's own funds in the amount of min. 25% of the total qualified costs of the new investment. The costs include, for example, fixed assets, expenditures on the purchase of land, expenditures on construction and infrastructure, as well as rental/leasing of land and buildings, provided that the period is not less than 5 years (3 years in other cases, as above).
As a rule, the higher the unemployment in the county where the investment will be made, the lower the criteria.
If the decision is revoked, the entrepreneur is obliged to repay the public support.
+ the possibility to take advantage of income tax relief - the exemption limit is calculated as a % of the capital expenditures incurred or the 2-year cost of hiring new employees, and the size of the relief depends on the location of the investment, the size of the entrepreneur and the capital expenditures incurred.
In practice, in order to take advantage of the income tax relief, it is not enough just to implement an investment project, but it is also necessary for the zone unit to generate tax income in the appropriate amount.
It is therefore an instrument that is particularly sensitive to economic fluctuations and declines in project profitability, with the consequence that only in a certain market situation, it acts as a real investment incentive.
+ the opportunity to start a business on a specially prepared, developed investment area, offered at competitive prices,
+ some SEZs also offer property tax exemption (total or partial) - this is usually offered to new investors, covers a predetermined period of time,
+ the opportunity to take advantage of funds and grants for investment, creation of new workplaces, research and development activities, environmental activities, training, logistics, renewable energy sources,
+ facilitation of obtaining subsidies from District Labor Offices or funds EU funds,
+ ability to lease/purchase existing real estate in the SEZ,
+ availability of qualified employees,
+ opportunity to invest in areas with high registered unemployment,
+ support from SEZ management companies - know-how and free assistance in matters such as organizational or administrative issues, mediation in negotiations with local authorities, negotiations with suppliers, etc.
+ proximity to other companies, providing opportunities to establish business contacts.
Within the framework of a single investment project, an entrepreneur may benefit from other sources of support, not only from tax exemption, but also, for example, from EU grants, subsidies, or property tax exemption. The amounts of support received from several sources are subject to aggregation and may not exceed the maximum intensity depending on the region and size of the enterprise
- fulfillment of the conditions referred to in the decision on support is the same as taking risks, occurring in the case of long-term commitments,
- in the event of a market downturn in the area of activity of a given enterprise, the fulfillment of obligations related to the activity in the zone may affect the liquidity of the investor's business,
- reporting obligations to the zone - additional controls that do not occur in the case of business outside the zone (e.g., on capital expenditures or jobs created),
- obligation to pay administrative fees for the entire period of operation in the zone,
- the procedure for acquiring land located within the zone - public land is acquired through a public tender procedure, so the period between the decision to locate an investment and the transfer of rights to the property to the investor is prolonged.
The SEZs will operate under current regulations until the end of December 2026. Ultimately, they are to be replaced by the Polish Investment Zone, which is an extension of the SEZs - the main difference is the possibility of taking advantage of concessions in the situation of conducting business activities also outside the strictly defined area of the Zone.