EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

Special economic zones (SEZ)

Poland
Phase: Anticipation
Type:
  • Access to finance
  • response to COVID-19
  • Attracting investors
  • Support of companies' growth
  • Support of SMEs
  • Territorial coordination
Last modified: 26 August, 2020
Native name:

Specjalne strefy ekonomiczne (SSE)

English name:

Special economic zones (SEZ)

Coverage/Eligibility

Coverage extends to all companies and individuals, excluding several types of business activity defined in the Ordinances of the Council of Ministers of 10 December 2008 and of 26 January 2010. Those excluded business activities include, among others: the production of explosives, tobacco products and alcohol, running gambling centres, commerce, hotels, catering, film production, broadcasting and financial services.

All companies and people have to meet the defined conditions for obtaining a business permit to operate within a SSE. These include:

  • A specified amount of investment;
  • Share of own resources of total investment costs;
  • Maintenance of the investment in the region from the beginning to the end of the whole investment; and,
  • Maintenance of the employment level for a specified period of time.

Main characteristics

Special economic zones (Specjalne Strefy ekonomiczne, SSE) are administrative parts of the territory of the country where economic activity can be conducted on preferential terms defined both in the Law on Special Economic Zones (Dz.U. z 2007 r. nr 42, poz. 273) and the Ordinance of the Council of Ministers on establishing a SSE in a specified region. Enterprises located in SSE may receive, among others, public aid in the form of tax exemption. 

SSE are a tool of regional policy of the state. Their main task is to accelerate the economic development of regions affected by economic stagnation: poorer, less developed, bypassed by investors, affected by high unemployment. SSE have been set up for a specific period of time (until December 2026) and are geographically limited areas where companies’ operations are governed by specific rules. In 2020, there are 14 special economic zones in Poland. Each SSE consists of several sub-zones which are located in different places, not necessarily next to each other.

In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, the parliament passed in June 2020 the Act on interest rate subsidies for bank loans granted to provide financial liquidity to entrepreneurs affected by the effects of COVID-19 and on the amendment of some other acts (the so-called Anti-crisis Shield 4.0). It contains regulations related to conducting business in SSE (Deloitte, 2020).

These changes increase the scope of investment opportunities of entrepreneurs offering tax exemption based on a decision on support, equating their situation with entrepreneurs who benefit from an exemption based on a zone permit. Nevertheless, investors are currently waiting for the announced reduction of investment thresholds in the SSE, which would contribute to the growth of new investments. Further legal changes are possible.

The aims of the special economic zones are:

  • To accelerate the economic development of regions;
  • To manage post-industrial property and infrastructure;
  • To create new jobs; and
  • To attract foreign investors to Poland.

    The basic benefit of investing in a special economic zone is the possibility of obtaining a tax allowance consisting of a corporate income tax (CIT) exemption. Currently (2020), the CIT rate in Poland is 19%. The maximum income tax exemption is related to the value of state aid available to an individual investor for an investment project carried out in the zone. This value depends on the investment location, the size of the enterprise and the amount of investment expenditure. For large enterprises, it consists of 30-50% of eligible costs. For medium-sized enterprises, it ranges between 40-60% of eligible costs. The value for small enterprises is between 50-70% of eligible costs.

    The companies investing within the SSE can use public help consisting of income tax exemption for the:

    • Costs of the new investment; and
    • Creation of jobs.

    The investors can freely choose the aid they want to obtain and benefit from. They receive support until the full amount of the state aid is used up, although this can be for no longer than the time specified in the Ordinance of the Council of Ministers on establishing a SSE in a specified region.

      To be able to use this help a company is required to:

      • Be operational for no less than five years; in case of SMEs for three years; and
      • Maintain the same structure of the ownership of the company's assets as the one to which investment spendings were related for the previous five years (in case of SME for three years).

      The CIT exemption in SSEs is granted under Polish law for companies which have obtained a SSE permit. The permit specifies the following conditions which the investor must meet:

      • Value of the planned investment;
      • Intended level of employment;
      • Date of commencing the business activity; and deadlines for fulfilling all of the obligations mentioned in the permit.

      Income generated from business activities carried out by an investor in a SSE is CIT–exempt up to the level in accordance with the following formula:

      • (Maximum aid intensity) X eligible investments cost; and
      • (Maximum aid intensity) X two year employment cost of the newly- created jobs.

      In June 2018, the new regulation (the Act on Supporting New Investment) came into force with the main assumption of rewarding projects that have an impact on the competitiveness and innovation of regional economies and, consequently, on Poland's economic development. This includes transfer of knowledge, conducting R&D activity, and cluster development. The regulation aims at a total departure from territorial restrictions regarding the possibility of obtaining support in the form of income tax exemptions, which de facto means an application of the special economic zone rules to the entire country.

      Funding

      • National funds

      Involved actors

      National government
      Legal framework; funding; establishment of SSE and managing bodies.
      Regional/local government
      Representatives are in managing bodies.

      Effectiveness

      SSE are a major factor stimulating investment dynamics and positive developments on the labour market. In 2019, the cumulative value of investments in all SSE exceeded PLN 132 billion (€30 billion) which means an increase by 10.74% compared to 2018 (Ministry of Development, 2020).

      With regard to labour market, according to the episodic report of Ernst & Young (2012), in areas where zones operate, the unemployment rate was on average lower by 1.5% to 2.8% in the case of sub-regions and 2.3% to 2.9 % in the case of poviats.

      At the end of 2019, investors operating in the zones employed 388,000 persons (Ministry of Development, 2020). There was a noticeable decline in the dynamics of employment growth in comparison to previous years. Compared to 2018, employment increased by 8,900, i.e. 2.4%  while in 2018, employment in SSE increased by 26,000 persons (Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology, 2019), and in 2017 by 21,000 persons (Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology, 2018).

      Strengths

      SSE lead to the creation of relatively large numbers of new workplaces, quite significant during the period of high unemployment which Poland experienced in previous years, particularly in parts of the country, where the zones were established. It is also assumed that they contribute to additional piece of GDP growth that would not be possible in the absence of the zones. There are no regular studies of this impact, but one of the random analyses showed the nominal value of the financial surplus in the amount of PLN 171.8 billion (€41 billion) in 2013 (Pastusiak, Keller, 2014). The main source of the financial surplus are the costs of remuneration of employees of enterprises operating in the SSE, the export of these enterprises, and the demand for means of production purchased on the domestic market by enterprises operating in the SSE.

      There are also cases where the existence of the zone has stimulated the increase of competitiveness of the entire region. An example is the so-called Aviation Valley, in Podkarparckie voivodeship, where a cluster of high technologies related to the aviation industry was created in a SSE.

      According to the fDi Magazine ranking (Financial Times group), in 2019 the Katowice SSE and the Łódź SSE were among the most attractive zones in the world (2nd and 8th position, respectively). The Katowice Special Economic Zone has been recognized for the fact that from the beginning of 2018 as many as 66 new projects have been implemented there and €1.14 billion has been allocated to new investments in various sectors (including automotive, metallurgy, chemical, plastics and food processing).

      Weaknesses

      Workplaces that have been created through SSE have not had a good reputation for many years. In many cases, they were created by non-European corporations that avoided compliance with labour law and, according to trade unions tried to 'exploit workers' (Maciejewska, 2012). The public authorities had a distanced approach to this because the priority was to keep foreign investors. In some cases, it is still impossible to talk about the stability of jobs because only the perspective of tax benefits keeps the investor in the zone.

      When it comes to entrepreneurs' access to the zone, initial selection happens. The state aid mechanism assumes tax breaks, however only after completion of the investment, which often takes several years. It places the economically strongest enterprises in a better position since they are able to meet the obligation to maintain the level of employment for a certain period of time and despite possible obstacles, for example an economic slowdown.

        For smaller enterprises, due to the scale of their operations, presence in SSE may be more difficult.

        According to the Report of the Supreme Audit Office (NIK) published in May 2020, public aid was not targeted at entrepreneurs operating in preferred sectors of the economy in a given region (NIK, 2020). Undertakings that contributed to the development of new technological and technical solutions, as well as increased competitiveness of manufactured products and services were not sufficiently supported. Monitoring exercised over Special Economic Zones did not enable reliable verification of compliance by entrepreneurs with the conditions resulting from the permit to conduct business. From the macroeconomic point of view, the activities of Special Economic Zones did not reduce the disparities in the country's regional development, because regions that are generally strongly attractive also attracted the most foreign investment.

        Examples

        The Katowice Special Economic Zone: Saint-Gobain; FIAT Auto Poland, ThyssenKrupp (Katowice SSE, 2020) The Łódź Special Economic Zone: Barry Callebaut, Gilette, Procter & Gamble (Łódź SSE, 2014) Other SSE: Fiat Powertrain Technologies Poland; Dell, Mondi Packaging Paper Świecie, Swedwood Poland, LG Electronics; Shell Polska, Rockwool Polska, etc..
        Sources
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