Belarus has legalized transactions in crypto-currencies, part of a drive to foster private sector growth and attract foreign investment by liberalizing its Soviet-style economy.
The Belarus government will not tax mining, trading of cryptocurrencies, and sale of digital tokens. Activities related to mining, creation, acquisition and sale of digital tokens will remain tax-free until 2023, throughout the next five years. The decree legalizes initial coin offerings and transactions in crypto-currencies, including their exchange for traditional currencies on Belarussian exchanges, while all trades will be tax-free for the next five years.
It also allows local IT companies to operate in part under English law – a gesture to foreign investors, who can struggle to navigate the Belarussian legal system.
The Belarussian IT sector has flourished, attracting foreign workers, expatriate Belarussians and locals to jobs that pay about five times the average wage. Dozens of software companies operate in Minsk’s high-tech IT park (HTP), including U.S.-based EPAM Systems (EPAM.N), founded by two Belarussians in 1993. Belarussian software engineers are also behind the Japanese-controlled Viber messenger and the popular video game World of Tanks.
New Conditions for IT companies
1. The validity period for HTP’s special legal status will be extended until January 2049. The following companies, which specialise in software development or other IT businesses, can become HTP residents:
- Design, development, support, sale, maintenance of software and (or) firmware based on or using the Blockchain, and distributed databases,
- Creation, training of neural networks and other algorithms in the specialised sections of Artificial Intelligence, and implementation of the results of this activity,
- Development, support, maintenance and production of unmanned vehicle driving systems,
- Development or separate development stages of medical technologies, biotechnologies as well as the implementation of the results of these developments,
- Business processes outsourcing activity,
- Software publishing and promotion,
- Mining, cryptocurrencies exchange activity, cryptocurrency converter activity, other activity using tokens,
- Cybersport activity. The list is not exhaustive. The HTP supervisory board is authorised to establish other kinds of activity that a company can specialise in to become a HTP resident.
2. Within the framework of the special HTP legal status, the existing tax and NSSF (National Social Security Fund) benefits are preserved and new ones introduced. Among the existing HTP residents’ benefits, the major ones are as follows:
- Exemption from income tax and VAT (pursuant to the general rule). Instead, HTP residents pay 1% of gross revenues in favour of the HTP administration,
- Individual income tax is paid at a lower rate (9%), and NSSF fees are calculated according to the average country wages, instead of actual wages (3-4 times lower). Additional benefits, aiming to stimulate Product Development IT companies, are the following:
- Exemption from VAT, based on the use of foreign entities to provide marketing, advertising, consulting and some other services to HTP residents,
- Zeroing of foreign entities’ income tax rate, with respect to the income from carve-out of stocks, shares in authorised capital, participatory interest in HTP residents’ property (provided that they continuously possess it for not less than 365 days), as well as royalties, earnings from advertising services and other kinds of income, paid by HTP residents.
3. HTP residents’ activities shall be simplified. Residents shall have a right:
- To conduct operations with e-money without a range of limitations,
- To open accounts in foreign banks and other credit and financial institutions, to receive money into these accounts without the permission of the National Bank,
- Capital can be moved through currency transactions if conducted after notifying the National Bank and with their permission,
- To execute primary accounting documents personally, when performing business transactions with non-residents of the Republic of Belarus.
Regulations regarding the procedure for the conduct and control of foreign trade transactions do not apply to transactions made by HTP residents.
4. Investment according to English Law will be allowed. HTP residents are allowed to sign agreements with third parties that are actively implemented in international business. For example:
- Agreement on granting right of first refusal to execute contracts,
- Convertible loan agreements,
- Property loss indemnity agreements,
- Agreements, stipulating liability for labour pirating,
- Non-compete agreements with employees with payment of compensation for the period of noncompete obligations,
- To issue irrevocable power of attorney.
5. The set of measures, focused on attracting top-ranked IT-specialists, is finalised.
- HTP residents do not have to get the permissions related to the employment of foreigners. Foreign employees will receive a temporary residence permit under the simplified procedure,
- Visas for foreign employees and founders of the HTP residents are cancelled. The maximum time limit of their temporary stay is increased up to 180 days.
Belarus will create an unprecedented ecosystem for the regulation of the circulation of cryptocurrencies and tokens. Major provisions:
- The rights of physical and legal entities in terms of token circulation are defined. Legal entities are entitled to possess tokens, create and list their own tokens through HTP residents; buy, exchange tokens and perform other operations using tokens only through the cryptocurrency exchanges and cryptocurrency exchange operators.
- Individuals are entitled to possess tokens; perform mining; exchange tokens, buy and sell them for Belarusian rubles, foreign currency, e-money, as well as present and bequeath tokens. The mining activity of individuals, tokens purchasing and sale shall not be considered entrepreneurial activity.
- Tokens and revenues from operations with them shall not be subject to declaration by the individuals.
- Turnovers, profits (income, proceeds) from various operations with tokens are not recognised as taxable items until January 2023.