Profits from Shipping Activities

Cyprus offers a specialized taxation regime under the Merchant Shipping (Fees and Taxing Provisions) Law, which is particularly beneficial for entities engaged in qualifying shipping activities. This regime adopts a tonnage tax system, which is a favorable alternative to the standard corporate income tax, and it applies to various forms of income related to maritime operations.

Scope of Tonnage Tax System

The tonnage tax system is applicable to the following categories of income:

  1. Income of Qualifying Ship-Owners: The income derived from the operation of qualifying Cyprus, Community, and/or foreign ships engaged in qualifying shipping activities is exempt from corporate tax. Qualifying ship-owners include those who operate ships registered under the Cyprus flag and, under certain conditions, those operating community and foreign-flagged ships.
  2. Income of Qualifying Charterers: Similar exemptions apply to qualifying charterers who operate qualifying ships under the flags of Cyprus, the Community, or foreign nations, provided these operations meet specific conditions outlined in the law.
  3. Income from Ship Management Services: Income earned from providing crew and technical ship management services by qualifying ship operators is also exempt from taxation under this regime. This exemption encourages the development of Cyprus as a center for maritime logistics and ship management services.
  4. Dividends: Dividends that are paid directly or indirectly out of the profits generated from the above-mentioned exempt activities are also free from tax. This provision extends the tax benefits to the shareholders and promotes investment in the shipping sector.
  5. Salaries and Benefits: Salaries, wages, and other similar benefits paid to the masters, officers, and crew of qualifying ships operating under the Cyprus or Community flag in a qualifying shipping activity are exempt from income tax. This exemption is crucial for reducing the operational costs associated with human resources in maritime operations.

Definition of Qualifying Entities and Activities

For the purposes of the law, a qualifying ship-owner includes not only the owner of the ship but also the bareboat charterer of a Cyprus ship. This broad definition ensures that various business models within the maritime industry can benefit from the tax exemptions provided.

The designation of qualifying shipping activities generally includes the transport of goods or passengers by sea, along with ancillary activities that are directly related to such transportation. However, specific conditions must be met to ensure compliance with both national and European Union regulations governing maritime operations.


The tonnage tax system in Cyprus represents a strategic initiative to bolster the maritime industry by offering significant tax incentives. These incentives are designed to attract more ship owners, charterers, and operators to register and operate their ships under the Cyprus flag, enhancing the island’s status as a competitive maritime hub in the Mediterranean and globally. This specialized tax regime not only fosters growth in the shipping sector but also contributes to the broader economic development of Cyprus.


Please note that the information provided here is for general guidance only and does not constitute professional tax advice. Tax laws and interpretations are subject to change, and individual circumstances can significantly affect tax obligations and benefits.

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For personalized tax advice tailored to your specific situation, we strongly recommend consulting with a qualified tax professional. Our team is equipped with the expertise to navigate the intricacies of Cyprus tax law and provide you with customized solutions. Contact us to ensure that you are making the most informed decisions for your tax-related matters.

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