Cuba plans big tax breaks to lure foreign investors: official media

Vendors wait for customers at their stalls, with prices tagged in Cuban pesos, at a market in Havana October 23, 2013. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan (Reuters)

By Marc Frank HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba is proposing a new Cuban foreign investment law that would cut the profits tax in half to 15 percent and exempt most investors from paying it for at least eight years, official media said on Wednesday. The National Assembly will meet on Saturday to approve the legislation that the communist country hopes will lure overseas capital and help further integrate the Caribbean island in the global economy. Cuba is promising legal protection for foreign investors, who have generally been averse to risking capital in the Soviet-style economy, and new incentives such as dramatically lowered tax. The National Assembly is expected to approve the draft of the law with little, or no changes. However, foreign ventures that mine natural resources, including oil, can be subject to a higher profits tax of up to 22.5 percent, depending on how those ventures are negotiated with the state, according to details published in the official Juventud Rebelde newspaper. Under the current foreign investment law, which went into effect in 1995, all tax breaks are negotiated and foreign firms pay a 30 percent profits tax and 20 percent labor tax, though the labor tax was already being gradually reduced. The new law "would apply (to investors) ... a tax of 15 percent on taxable net profits," after which all profit could be repatriated, Juventud Rebelde newspaper reported. Investors will still have to hire labor through state-run companies, a major complaint, though the hiring halls will no longer operate for profit, Juventud Rebelde reported, indicating more money will flow back to workers and their wages may be easier to negotiate. (This story corrects details of tax in fourth paragraph) (Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Daniel Trotta, Lisa Von Ahn and Sofina Mirza-Reid)