Financing, investment and government support
Does the government provide any incentives or support programmes to promote fintech innovation in your jurisdiction (eg, tax incentives, grants and regulatory sandboxes)?
The regulator operates a de facto sandbox approach to new opportunities that require careful consideration of how the proposed activities interact with existing laws. The Gibraltar Financial Services Commission has set up an Innovate and Create team to deal with such queries (see www.fsc.gi/FSC/innovate).
The government previously introduced a start-up business support package:
A start-up incentive scheme was introduced for companies or limited partnerships which were incorporated between 5 July 2016 and 30 June 2017. Over the first three financial years of trading, the company will be eligible for a tax credit equal to the tax due up to a maximum of £50,000 over each of the first three years. The government may decide to introduce or extend this scheme in the future.
Has the government concluded any international cooperation agreements to promote and facilitate the cross-border expansion of fintech businesses?
The UK government has provided Gibraltar with a guarantee that any access joined by financial service firms under existing arrangements will be unaffected by Brexit.
Financing and investment
What private financing and investment schemes are available and commonly used for fintech start-ups in your jurisdiction?
Gibraltar has a strong entrepreneurial culture with access to private equity and venture capital for interesting start-ups, particularly in the fintech sector.
What forms of IP protection are available for fintech innovations?
Gibraltar mostly follows English law in relation to the registration of IP rights and the protection of registered and unregistered IP rights.
The UK Patents Act 1977 operates in Gibraltar by virtue of the Gibraltar Patents Act. It is not possible to make an original application to register a patent in Gibraltar. The application must be made to the UK Intellectual Property Office and extended to include Gibraltar within three years of the UK patent’s date of issue. Protection will run for as long as the UK patent is valid.
European trademarks may be registered from Gibraltar and a UK registration can be extended to cover Gibraltar.
Designs registered in the UK are automatically protected in Gibraltar by virtue of the Gibraltar Designs Act 1928. There is no design registry and no need for an application to be made in Gibraltar. Designs registered in the European Union (by way of a registered community design) are also automatically protected in Gibraltar under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Further international protection is available under the World Intellectual Property Office Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs 1925.
With regard to unregistered designs, protection arises automatically when the design is recorded in a design document or an article is made to the design. Designs made in Gibraltar qualify for reciprocal protection in UK (Design Right (Reciprocal Protection) Order 1989 (No 2) 1989 (SI 1989/1294)).
In Gibraltar, copyright protects the authors of works by preventing others from copying or reproducing the work, with protection arising automatically on creation of the qualifying work. As such, registration is not required.
What rules govern the ownership of IP rights to fintech innovations?
What immigration schemes are available for fintech businesses to recruit skilled staff from abroad? Are there any special regimes specific to the tech or financial sector?
A company can apply to the Finance Centre director to have employees designated as a high executive possessing specialist skills (HEPSS individual). HEPSS individuals must:
- possess specialist skills of exceptional economic value to Gibraltar;
- have skills that are not available in Gibraltar; and
- earn more than £100,000 a year.
Income tax liability is capped to the first £120,000 of taxable earnings. The cap primarily applies to income from the designated employment, but can extend to certain dividends, interest, pensions income and foreign income. A HEPSS individual will be required to have residential accommodation in Gibraltar that is suitable for HEPSS requirements. The Finance Centre director must confirm suitability before a HEPSS individual can enter into any residential property agreements.
What immigration schemes are available for foreign investors and entrepreneurs wishing to invest in or establish a fintech business in your jurisdiction?
Gibraltar affords individuals whose net worth exceeds £2,000,000 a special status known as Category 2. For these purposes, the status limits the individual’s tax liability to their first £80,000 of assessable income.
Assessable income includes all income deemed taxable under the Gibraltar Income Tax Act 2010 but excludes income accrued from abroad, or income received from a trust. While Category 2 status is popular among retirees, it is also available to individuals based in Gibraltar who are shareholders of companies whose activities are carried on outside Gibraltar. Such individuals may also be directors of such companies provided that this is permitted under the conditions of their Category 2 certificate; consent is usually sought from the Finance Centre director in such cases.
Under the provisions of the applicable law, an individual who benefits from Category 2 status will be subject to a maximum tax liability of £27,560 a year and a minimum of £22,000 a year (according to current applicable rates). Spouses can also elect to have their income assessed under their partner’s Category 2 arrangements, with the combined incomes being subject to the aforementioned cap.
For those individuals who wish to obtain Category 2 status, an application for a Category 2 certificate is made to the Finance Centre, along with a non-refundable deposit of £1,000. In order for the application to be successful, the individual must have residential accommodation (rented or purchased) in Gibraltar available to them for their own exclusive use, which must be approved by the Finance Centre.
The Finance Centre director will issue a certificate if he is satisfied that:
- the applicant meets the above criteria;
- the applicant is of substantial and sound financial standing and good character; and
- the issue of the certificate will not be harmful to Gibraltar’s reputation as a well-regulated finance centre.
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