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The Warsaw Voice » Advice from Law Firm » April 25, 2013
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Just How Special Are Poland’s Special Economic Zones?
April 25, 2013   
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Poland’s special economic zones operate under the country’s Special Economic Zone law of Oct. 20, 1994 (Journal of Laws, 2007, no. 42, item 274 with subsequent amendments). The zones were set up to accelerate Poland’s economic growth. The aim was to combine the needs of the country’s individual regions and the business goals of firms and their owners who benefit from state aid granted in connection with activity in the zones.

There are now 14 special economic zones in Poland. These are the Kamienna Góra, Katowice, Kostrzyn-Słubice, Cracow, Legnica, ŁódĽ, Mielec, Pomerania, Słupsk, Starachowice, Suwałki, Tarnobrzeg, Wałbrzych and Warmia-Mazuria zones. According to the Ministry of the Economy, by the end of the third quarter of 2012, a total of 1,506 permits were issued for business operations in the zones, around zl.83.9 million was invested in projects carried out in the zones, and almost 190,000 jobs were created. The zones are set up under a government decision at the request of the economy minister. The decision defines the name of the zone, its area and boundaries, its management and for long it has been established. The existing zones have been set up to operate until Dec. 31, 2020. Talks are under way between the economy and finance ministries on extending the time of their operation until the end of 2016. Businesses active in the zones say they need several years to make use of the state aid they receive. They are sounding the alarm that the decision to extend the zones’ life should be made without delay—no later than the end of the year.

A special economic zone may be established exclusively on land owned by the authority managing it, which means the state or a local government, or an association of municipalities. A zone may also be established on land held in perpetual usufruct (long-term lease of public land). There are some exceptions from this rule though.

A zone may be established on land owned/held by entities other than those listed above if the purchase of the land by the managing authority or local government results from an agreement specifying that the only purpose of the purchase is to set up the zone. In specific cases defined by the law, a part of the zone may include land owned or held as perpetual usufruct by entities other than those listed above if they have approved that.

Only a company in which the state or provincial government has a majority of voting rights may be the managing authority. The managing authority is responsible for taking measures to expand business activity in the zone. Notably, the managing authority has the pre-emptive right to buy the ownership or perpetual usufruct of properties located within the zone.

Businesses active in a special economic zone may set up a body known as the zone council that has the right to come up with opinions and proposals on matters concerning business activity in the zone and its development. The council operates on the basis of the regulations which it has worked out and adopted.

Doing business in a special economic zone may be profitable because income from such economic activity under a permit is exempt from income tax. A permit to operate in the zone is necessary to benefit from doing business in the zone because it makes the company eligible for state aid.

The permit defines the object of economic activity and conditions concerning in particular employment, investment and the deadline for completing projects as well as the maximum amount of eligible costs. Companies to be granted the permit are selected through tender or through negotiations. The permit expires on the expiry of the time limit for the operation of the zone. The permit may be revoked, limited, changed or pronounced expired under conditions specified in the Special Economic Zone law.

Work is under way to amend that law. At the beginning of the year, the Ministry of the Economy drafted guidelines for such amendments. However, it will take a long time for the amendments to be adopted. The draft will be subject to consultation and then it will have to be approved by the government and go through the legislative process in the parliament.
Michał Boryczka

Michał Boryczka is a legal counselor and managing associate at Gessel law firm. He specializes in M&A transactions, restructuring of corporate groups, day-to-day corporate services for companies and partnerships, including public companies, and in providing advice on the performance of disclosure duties by issuers. He also provides advice on privatization transactions and management stock option programs as well as day-to-day legal services for associations and foundations. He takes part in the work of a team of lawyers preparing prospectuses and due diligence studies for business transactions.
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