Doing Business with BelarusFootnote 1 – Legal, Fiscal and Human Resources perspectives
In line with the Government of Canada’s broad approach of pursing dialogue and diplomacy with the international community, Canada has re-established diplomatic engagement with Belarus in 2016. This shift follows a 10-year period during which official relations were limited following the flawed 2006 presidential elections, which included the harassment and intimidation of the opposition, and the subsequent suppression of protests by Belarusian authorities. Our revised approach reflects Canada's acknowledgement that the government of Belarus has made some progress in key areas, including the release of political prisoners in August 2015 and the conduct of peaceful presidential elections in October 2015, which demonstrated greater adherence to international norms. Canada also recognizes the constructive role played by Belarus in facilitating negotiations toward a ceasefire and peace agreement in Ukraine under the Minsk agreements.
Official representation to Belarus is based at the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw.
Global Affairs Canada has completed on July 12, 2017 the regulatory process to remove Belarus from the Area Control List (ACL), thereby lifting sanctions that have been in place since December 2006. Export permits are no longer needed for the export of any goods and technology to Belarus that are not specifically listed in Canada’s Export Controls List.
Canada’s bilateral merchandise trade with Belarus for 2017 was close to C$42.5 million, consisting of C$3 million in exports and C$39.5 million in imports. Major imports from Belarus to Canada were petroleum based products and wood furniture. Main Canadian exports to Belarus consisted of different types of machinery (electrical and for plastic).
Even if Belarus remains a small market, it presents several opportunities for Canadian companies, especially for software development companies and for the supply of equipment/machinery for industrial applications, mining and forestry. Agri-food products, especially frozen fish, are also representing areas of continuous opportunities.
There are no specific requirements for foreigners wishing to run a business in Belarus. Investors, whether they are residents of the Republic of Belarus or any other country, fall within the same legal treatment and exercise equal rights to run a business in Belarus. The procedure to form a legal entity requires to go through a number of formalities, particularly to register with the Uniform State Register of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs. Legal entities are required to have their own name, statutory fund, management structure, registered offices and bank accounts.
Legal entities registered in Belarus are subjects of the Belarusian law. The main business related laws are “On investments” Law No. 53-3 (2013), “On Concessions” Law No. 63-3 (2013), and the Presidential Decree No. 10 “On the Creation of Additional Conditions for Investment Activity in Belarus”. Agreements concluded by Belarusian companies with foreign companies can however be governed by any law chosen by the parties.
The Belarusian legislation provides for the following legal forms of business entities:
- Individual entrepreneur (the abbreviation is IE)
- Farm enterprise (peasant economy) (the abbreviation is FE)
- Unitary enterprise (the abbreviation is UE)
- Production cooperative (the abbreviation is PC)
- General Partnership (the abbreviation is GP)
- Special Partnership (the abbreviation is SP)
- Additional-liability company (the abbreviation is ALC)
- Limited-liability company (the abbreviation is LLC)
- Open joint-stock company (the abbreviation is OJSC)
- Closed joint-stock company (the abbreviation is CJSC)
Most of businesses in Belarus are legal entities organized in forms of UE, LLC, ALC, CJSC and OJSC. Only the citizen of the Republic of Belarus or foreigner having a special permission to stay in the Republic of Belarus are entitled to be registered as individual entrepreneurs.
Other options of doing business include the creation of representative offices and branches of legal entities - most probably the easiest and shortest path of registration. The Investment Promotion and Project Support Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the procedures and regular activities of foreign companies’ representation offices in Belarus. For more details, please consult: mfa.gov.by/en/representation/steps/
The National Agency of Investment and Privatization is a state organization established to attract foreign direct investments (FDI) to Belarus. The aim of the Agency is to improve investment awareness of Belarus abroad, promote foreign investment projects and encourage potential investors to invest in privatization projects that are carried out with the World Bank. Note that FDI is prohibited in the areas of defense and security issues and the production and distribution of narcotic, dangerous and toxic substances.
The Belarusian accounting requirements for businesses are based on the Civil Code, the Law ”On Accounting and Reporting”, the company’s chart of accounts, and incorporate accounting regulations and legal acts of the Ministry of Finance and the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB). According to Ernst and Young’s (EY) report on Doing Business with Belarus, while a number of requirements formally follows international financial reporting standards, their application and interpretation may be different. EY lists the following major differences:
- Definition of reporting and functional currency (financial statements for Belarusian statutory purposes must be prepared in the official currency of Belarus only)
- The mandatory existence of supporting documentation prepared in accordance with the prescribed format for both accounting and tax purposes
- The impact of hyperinflation is not reflected in the Belarusian accounting system
- In spite of the existing guidance for the preparation of consolidated financial statements, which requires parent company to prepare separate and consolidated financial statements if it has subsidiaries, the order is not fully complied with and enforced. With IFRS, on the other hand, the consolidation concept must be fully applied
- The regular revaluation of entire classes of fixed assets under the Belarusian statutory accounting principles is allowed under the prescribed rules
- Differences in the accounting for equity and reserves
For taxation purposes, the following organizations are considered taxpayers in Belarus:
- Belarusian legal entities
- Foreign and international organizations, including those that are not legal entities
- Simple partnerships (contract partners in joint activities)
- Economic groups
The standard corporate income tax rate is 18%. A 12% rate is applied to dividends and the income generated from the sale of shares in the charter capital of the entities in Belarus or to any part thereof is taxable at the rate of 9%. The tax period for profit tax is a calendar year, and a quarterly tax return must be filed.
In an effort to encourage foreign investment, the Belarusian government has created preferential regimes from which investors may gain significant advantages, such as tax benefits and exemptions from certain obligations:
- Free Economic Zones (FEZs): Companies located in FEZ pay certain taxes at a rate half as high as the standard ones, including profit tax at 9% and VAT at 10%. Profit received by FEZ residents from supplies of goods, work or services of their own production is exempt from profit tax and transportation duty for a period of 5 years after the profit is declared. FEZ residents do not pay real estate tax on buildings located within FEZs. There are six authorized FEZs in Belarus.
- High Technology Park (HT Park): Companies focusing on information systems and data processing can become members of a HT Park in Belarus. This also applies to legal entities with 100% foreign investment. The HT Park provides for full exemption from almost all taxes and duties, including income tax, VAT, and real estate tax. Technical equipment imported by HT Park residents into Belarus is exempt from customs duties and VAT. The tax rate paid on the income received from dividends, debt liabilities, royalty and licenses by foreign legal entities not operating in Belarus through permanent establishments (provided they originate from an HT Park resident) amounts to 5%, unless more favorable terms are established by international treaties. In addition, the residents of the HT Park do not pay offshore duty on the dividends paid to their shareholders.
- Business in rural areas, small and medium size towns: Companies manufacturing goods or providing services in rural areas or small and medium size towns for seven calendar years since the day of their state registration, may be exempt from profit tax and personal income tax with regard to goods (work or services) they produce themselves; real estate tax on property located in rural areas, small and medium size towns; customs duties and VAT (except VAT charged on goods imported from the Russian Federation).
The National Agency of Investments and Privatization (NAIP) is publishing the “Invest in Belarus Guidebook” (www.belarus.by/en/invest) and the “Investment projects in Belarus” report where projects offered to foreign and Belarusian businesses are presented. More details can be found at: investinbelarus.by/en/investbase/offers/
Value Added Tax (VAT)
VAT is payable on most goods in Belarus at 20%.Under Belarusian VAT law, VAT is payable on the following transactions:
- sales of goods, services and property rights in Belarus
- most imports into Belarus
In general, the following transactions and activities are not subject to VAT:
- Property contributions from the legal entity’s founders or participants to its charter fund
- Compensated and gratuitous transfers of goods or property rights within the same entity
- Transfer of property due to gratuitous use
- Supply of goods placed under the re-export customs procedure
- Cost of work or services purchased or paid for by the company for the benefit of its own employees, their families and their retired employees
- Sale of securities (including initial offerings made in accordance with legislative requirements), forward and future contracts, options and other concurrent financial instruments from the derivatives market
- The supply of goods (work, services) and lease of any property in Belarus for official activities of diplomatic representative offices of foreign states and the supply of goods (work, services) for personal use by diplomatic and/or administrative and technical personnel of such foreign diplomatic representative offices (including members of their families residing with them)
- Rendering medical and veterinary services
- Sale of certain pharmaceuticals and medical equipment
- Transfers of industrial property rights
- Housing and communal services provided to individuals
- Insurance and banking services
Customs and Excise
Customs regulation in Belarus is based on international standards. Belarus is a member of the World Customs Organization, the International Convention on Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (Brussels, 983), the Convention on Temporary Import (Istanbul, 1990) and the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (Kyoto Convention, Kyoto, 1973).
Additionally, Belarus, along with Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, is part of the Eurasian Economic Union and under this umbrella, goods manufactured or released for domestic consumption in one member state may circulate in the other member states free of customs clearance and without payment of customs duties and VAT or any economic limitations. Such goods do not have to be placed under customs procedures. There are however several exceptions to the Customs Union rules.
According to the Belarusian legislation, excise duty is generally payable on:
- Excisable goods produced and sold by the taxpayer in Belarus
- Excisable goods upon their importation into Belarus
- Excisable imported goods upon their sale in Belarus
Excisable goods include alcohol products, tobacco products, motor fuel, etc.
The excise duty period is one calendar month and reports need to be filed on a monthly basis.
Human Resources Perspective
Foreign citizens must obtain a visa (entry visa: short term or long term; temporary residency permit; and/or multiple-entry visa) to enter Belarus. Foreigners arriving in Belarus are required to register with the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, the local police station, their place of temporary stay within five days of the entry date, excluding Sundays and public holidays.
Since February 2017, foreign citizens of 80 countries, including Canada, can enter Belarus without visas for up to 10 days and exit from Belarus only through the State border checkpoint of the Republic of Belarus Minsk National Airport.
In Belarus, the labour law is codified and regulated by the Belarusian Labour Code. It establishes procedures for the hiring and dismissal of employees, as well as regulations concerning working time, vacations, business trips, salary payment, etc. Both Belarusian and foreigners working in Belarus are covered by the Labour Code, provided that the employment agreement is entered into in Belarus.
Hiring a foreigner to perform work in Belarus is possible providing that both the employer and the future employee follow the procedures:
- The employer must seek government approval to hire foreign workers. If granted, a permit will be issued;
- The employer concludes an employment agreement with the employee and registers it with the proper authority;
- The employee applies for Belarusian entry visa;
- The employee must register with the local bodies of internal affairs upon arrival in Belarus. Subsequently, the employee may obtain a permanent residence permit.
Note that an employer and its employee can enter into a civil law agreement instead of an employment agreement, in which case the Labor Code would not apply. The Civil Code and Presidential Decree No. 314 of 6 July 2005 regulate civil law agreements and the legal relations arising from them. Certain guarantees provided under the Labor Code, including paid leave, do not apply to relations that arise from civil law agreements.
Embassy of Canada in Poland
Tel.: (48 22) 584 3360
Website: www.canada.pl; www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/pl
Belarusian Government Contacts
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Economy
State Customs Authorities
National Agency of Investments and Privatization (NAIP)
Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Canada
Online ressources – Belarus
World Bank: Belarus – Economy overview
World Bank: Doing Business in Belarus
Guide on Doing Business with Belarus
Main Trade Fairs
- Footnote 1
The Government of Canada has prepared this report based on primary and secondary sources of information. Readers should take note that the Government of Canada does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the information contained in this report, nor does it necessarily endorse the organizations listed herein. Readers should independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the information.
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