New tax to hit Polish banks in 2016

A big change is coming up in 2016 for the banks and some other financial institutions operating in Poland, as Polish Sejm (lower chamber of the Parliament) has just passed a bill introducing a new tax.

February 2016 will be the first month of functioning of the new levy. It will affect home banks, foreign bank branches, credit institution branches as well as some other financial entities: insurance and reinsurance companies, savings and credit unions and loan companies.

The new so-called “bank tax” will be charged at the amount of 0.44 % p.a. (although the bill draft set the number at 0.39 % p.a.). The levy will be charged against the assets in possession of the institutions.

There is a threshold of assets above which the tax will be assessed and collected, though. For banks and savings and credit unions this will be 4 billion PLN, while for insurance companies this will be set at the amount of 2 billion PLN. For loan companies the threshold will be 200 million PLN.

According to the bill, Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (BGK) will be exempted from paying the new tax. This is due to the fact that the bank is state-owned and carries out several special government tasks and programmes, for example those connected with infrastructure and development.

Opponents of the new tax argue that it will turn out to be detrimental to consumers and the whole economy. Although it is the banks and other financial institutions that are the taxpayers, quite possibly the new levy will eventually be covered by individuals and businesses, as banks will burden them with additional payments.

What will follow is an increase in the prices of bank services, from maintenance charges to loan rates. Polish consumers may soon need to say goodbye to such conveniences as zero charges for bank accounts or free transfers and withdrawals from ATMs. It will be the regular people who will suffer as a result, not the bank shareholders, the opposition argues.

The ruling party says that bank tax is present in numerous European countries, such as the UK or Hungary. The income from the new levy is to finance the upcoming social reforms the government is to introduce, such as child benefits or lowering of the retirement age.

The bill now needs to be passed in the Senate (this may bring further changes) and signed by the President. The bill was prepared by the ruling Law and Justice Party (PIS). This is not the only change in taxation under way. The government has also plans to introduce a new tax on hypermarkets.