Refunds of tax withheld at source

Foreign businesses must pay income tax on their receipts of income from Finnish sources. Payers must withhold tax at source. The rate of withholding depends on the provisions of the applicable bilateral tax treaty between Finland and the country of residence of the foreign company. If too much tax has been withheld at source, the foreign company is entitled to ask for a refund either from the Finnish Tax Administration or, in certain circumstances, directly from the payer.

When to withhold tax on trade income

When foreign companies receive trade income from Finland, the income normally falls outside the taxing rights of the Finnish Tax Administration, unless the foreign company has a permanent establishment. The payer may have to withhold tax at source on the amount if the foreign company is not entered in the Prepayment Register, or has not presented a tax-at-source card for zero-rate withholding.

If tax has been withheld although the foreign company is not treated as having a permanent establishment in Finland, the company is entitled to request a refund.

Two methods of refunding tax withheld at source

1. Finnish payer effecting the withholding refunds it to the foreign company

The foreign company may present the payer a zero-rate tax card for tax at source, with retroactive validity. In this case, the payer is entitled to refund any tax they had withheld previously. The refund must take place in the same year when the compensation for work was paid. After paying such a refund, the payer must file reports of employer’s contributions (previously periodic tax return) with corresponding corrections of withheld amounts for the months when too much tax had been withheld. If refunds within the same calendar year are no longer possible, the foreign company must file a refund request to the Tax Administration.

It is not an adequate reason for refund of tax withheld at source that the foreign company has later been entered in the Prepayment Register.

2. Foreign company requests refund of the Tax Administration

Foreign companies may request their tax at source to be refunded.

Enclose the pay slip from the payer, stating the amount of compensation paid and the tax withheld on it. If the form is filed during the same calendar year when the compensation was paid, it is also necessary to enclose a declaration from the payer confirming that no direct refund to the foreign company has been made. Further mandatory enclosures:

  • certificate corresponding to the Finnish Trade Register Extract from the trade register of the country of tax residence
  • if applicable, a photocopy of the assignment or contract agreement stating the grounds for the compensation paid to the foreign company.

Withheld tax cannot always be refunded

When tax has been withheld at source, it cannot be refunded if the income of the foreign company is regarded as falling within the taxing rights of Finland. The Finnish Tax Administration is entitled to collect tax on income for example in cases where the foreign company is treated as having a permanent establishment in Finland. This requires that the company file an income tax return, and when its Finnish income taxes are assessed, the paid-in tax that had been withheld is then included as a received prepayment. It is mandatory to enclose a certificate from the payer proving that tax was withheld.

Dividend, interest and royalties are subject to tax at source

When Finnish payers pay dividend, interest or royalties to foreign companies, they must withhold 20% or 30% at source unless the applicable bilateral tax treaty provides for a lower rate or provides that the type of income being paid is exempted from tax at source. In such a case the beneficiary of the income must present the payer a document that proves that exemption is applicable (as is the case with some dividends in the European Economic Area) or that they meet the requirements of the bilateral tax treaty. The beneficiary of income must also give sufficient details to the payer in order to facilitate beneficiary identification.

If too much tax has been withheld, it can later be adjusted. However, too much tax withheld on dividends can only be adjusted by the same bank that had handled the paying out of the distributed dividends of a Finnish corporation. If such adjustment is not made during the year of payment, the beneficiary of dividends can file a request to the Tax Administration. The appropriate form is Application for refund of Finnish withholding tax. As for other types of income (than dividends), beneficiaries may file a request to the Tax Administration already during the year of payment.

For more information, Tax rates on dividends and other payments from Finland to non-residents.