Fast growing economy
Poland has pursued a policy of economic liberalization since 1990 and today stands out as a success story among transition economies. Poland is the 6th largest economy in the European Union and one of the fastest growing economies in Central Europe. It is the only member country of the European Union to have avoided a decline in GDP in the aftermath of the recent economic downturn. In the year 2009 Poland created the most GDP growth in the whole EU.
Sixth most populous EU member
The total area of Poland is 312,600 square kilometers, which makes it the ninth largest country in Europe. With a population of over 38 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member of the European Union.
Poland is a democracy, with a president as a head of state. The president is elected by popular vote every five years. The government structure and executive powers centre on the Council of Ministers, led by a prime minister. The president appoints the cabinet according to the proposals of the prime minister, typically from the majority coalition formed in the parliament (the Sejm). Legislative power lies with the parliament.
Abundant human capital
Poles are one of the best-educated societies in Europe. There are more than 120 state higher education institutions as well as 300 private schools of tertiary education. Two million young people currently studying at the university level make up almost half of the student age population. A young, well educated and ambitious society is Poland’s strongest asset. Creative, highly motivated Polish workers are an excellent base for conducting any form of business. A large supply of human resources is an important factor in a long-term, since Polish wages are up to four times lower than those in Western Europe.
As a member of the European Union, Poland has few limitations for foreign companies wishing to enter the Polish market.
Financial and capital markets
Poland has well developed financial markets and the banking system works fine. Giełda Papierów Wartościowych w Warszawie (The Warsaw Stock Exchange) is the official capital market and there are a few alternative smaller markets as well. As of July 2010 there are 386 companies listed at the WSE including a growing number of foreign companies choosing this market to list their shares.
Starting a business in Poland is relatively easy. In practice, the limited liability company (LLC) is the most common form of business organisation for foreign and domestic investors engaging in business in Poland. The minimum share capital required to establish an LCC is PLN 5 000. Contribution to the share capital of an LLC have to be made prior to its registration. In addition, readymade LLCs are available for purchasing off the shelf and can be ready for trading within days.
The accounting standards in Poland have been undergoing significant changes to bring Polish accounting practices closer to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). However, due to the many changes in IFRS, differences continue to exist. Accounting records should be kept and financial statements drawn up in the Polish language and expressed in the Polish currency. A statutory audit is required for all joint stock companies and a limited liability company if two of the following criteria are met: a) annual average employment exceeded 50 persons; b) total balance sheet amount exceeded EUR 2,5 million; and c) turnover plus financial income exceeded EUR 5 million.
Labour costs in Poland are up to four times lower than those in the most developed economies in the EU. However, taxes and social security contributions are a heavy burden. Polish employers must pay approximately 0,67 Euros in taxes and social security for every euro paid to their employees. Employers are obliged to calculate and pay monthly withholding tax, social security and health insurance for their employees, taking into account the employee’s income, decisions on the joint taxation of spouses, and varying amounts of tax deductions. Employees are entitled to almost four week paid holiday per twelve months worked.
The flat rate of corporate income tax is 19%. Companies having their registered office or management in Poland are subject to CIT on all their income. Companies not having their registered office or management in Poland are subject to CIT only on income earned in Poland. Taxpayers are no longer obliged to submit tax returns monthly; however, they are still obliged to pay advances on a monthly basis. Taxpayers are obliged to submit CIT-8 tax returns on an annual basis.
The rate of withholding tax (WHT) applicable under Polish law is 20%, but a lower rate or tax exemption may be claimed under a double taxation treaty (DTT). Dividends disbursed from Poland are subject to 19% withholding tax. Again, a DTT to which Poland is a party may provide for a reduced rate of WHT. Poland has double taxation treaties with almost 80 countries.
The basic VAT rate in Poland is 23% and applies to most goods and services. A preferential rate of 8% applies to most foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals and medical products, restaurants and hotel services, transportation services as well as residential housing, magazines and newspapers. A reduced rate of 5% applies to unprocessed foodstuffs and books. The tax paid on purchases can be offset against the tax collected on sales, which is payable through monthly VAT returns.