© Mirjam Hagen Fotografie

„e-Residency is not an automatic tax residency“ – Im Gespräch mit e-Residency Experte Mats Kuuskemaa

von Michael André Ankermüller

Schnell und einfach ein Unternehmen gründen und dabei auch noch Steuern sparen? Das versprechen sich viele Unternehmer und Unternehmerinnen, wenn sie an eine so genannte e-Residency in Estland denken. Doch was steckt eigentlich dahinter? ZASTER-Chefredakteur Michael Ankermüller hat sich mit Mats Kuuskemaa, Country Director (D-A-CH) des e-Residency Programms zum Interview getroffen.

What is the e-Residency Programme in simple terms?
e-Residency is an Estonian government issued status with a digital identity card that enables to establish and manage EU-based businesses 100% online as well as to use legally binding and highly secure digital signature. People who have acquired e-Residency are e-Residents who are a new category of people whom Estonia introduced into our legislation. These are people who do not live in Estonia, but have access to our digital infrastructure and have a legal status in Estonia.
Another way to look at it, e-Residency is a key to Estonian business ecosystem. Estonia has created a paperless governance system: e-Residency simply offers access to it for non-residents. The e-resident can use his/her e-Residency card to create a paperless fully remote Estonian company fast and free of bureaucracy and run is easily and cost-efficiently from anywhere in the world whist using his/her card also to sign documents digitally and securely online.
 Does the e-Residency programme make sense at all for Europeans who have a permanent residence?
Since e-Residency was launched, the programme has been empowering entrepreneurs from all around the world. With e-Residency,  Estonia became the only country in the world that created fully remote customer journey for non-residents to create and run their businesses through digital interoperable government services. Despite of interest around the globe, nearly 50%  of our community are EU citizens whereas Germany is #2 in the world with around 6,300 e-Residents who are German nationals.
Why is that, you ask. Because many Germans are very internationally minded people. They love to travel extensively and live abroad parts of their lives. E-Residency offers a great solution here – you can run an EU-based company with all the security that comes with this the common economic area. Yet, you literally have a company in your rucksack that enables you to run your business wherever you have Internet, be it Brazil, Bali or Belgium. You can submit all the paperwork with Estonia 100% online.
We have also seen that e-Residency has greatly diversified Estonia’s startup ecosystem, that has anyway the most unicorns per capita in Europe. A recent study found that every 3rd Estonian startup has at least one e-Resident founder. Similarly, e-Residency can be a great solution for DAO-type companies which directors and shareholders can sign all documentation online. Lastly, e-Commerce seems to be a sector where Estonia offers a smooth way to manage EU business.
What is the advantage of the e-Residency programme if, for example, you are resident in Germany and pay taxes there?
Firstly, kindly note that I am not a tax advisor. However, I can give my personal opinion on the topic. The most important is to know that e-Residency is not an automatic tax residency, its rather a bureaucracy haven. Estonian tax system is very simple and entrepreneur-friendly, but every e-Resident need to make sure that he/she pays taxes where these are due according to the regulations. Potential founders who consider e-Residency can find cross-border tax advisors who know both Estonian and German systems extensively, on e-Residency marketplace. We also regularly hold webinars with tax experts – join our email list and be in the loop.
There are some general rules for companies that has German tax resident as the only director whilst the company has no substance in Estonia. In this case, the company should pay corporate income tax in Germany, not Estonia. However, if the director plans to move out of Germany in a couple of years, they could easily take their Estonian company with them wherever they go next.
Other than that, companies which also build operations in Estonia (i.e. hire employees there) can benefit more from Estonia’s low bureaucracy management of companies as well as from our corporate taxation system that enables to delay payment of corporate income tax for profits that have not been paid out in dividends.
In other words, Estonia enables companies to grow their capital and only taxes dividends that are paid out. In case of no dividend payments corporate profits are taxed at 0%, whereas there is no capital gains tax in Estonia. There is a historic reason for this. There was simply not enough capital in the country during the 1990s, the first decade after Estonia had regained independence. Our politicians wanted to give everyone the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and enjoy the new freedoms that capitalism brought to Estonia.
For whom is the e-Residency suitable at all?
e-Residency is open for anyone to apply apart from Russian and Belarus’ citizens (recent regulation due to the EU sanctions). The Estonian government does a background check on each individual. The reason for this is that that Estonia-based businesses would be trusted and transparent. It is important that people who have been involved in criminal and terrorist activity would not use e-Residency to advance their goals.
Who should consider e-Residency: founders who want to build an international business in a business environment where you can get started very fast, spend less time and money on managing your company and perhaps invest this time instead into growing your business.
Can you give an example of a company construct that could make sense if it were domiciled in Germany, in order to save taxes and bureaucratic effort?
In Estonia, the most used company formation type is OÜ, our version of GmbH. The difference with German GmbH is that it allows more than one field of activity and these can be changed easily. If you think of a company as a car then Estonian OÜ would be a very fuel efficient and agile vehicle, one that could take you far in no time and affordably. However, even Bolt, an Estonia-born ride mobility company that has had a unicorn status for some time is still an OÜ.
Regarding what constructs make sense taxation-wise, for companies managed from Germany, each case is different and a deeper look is needed by a cross-border tax advisor to establish whether and to which extent e-Residency could work for them.
However, if you want to truly benefit from our highly ranked tax system (#1 place in International Tax Ranking for 9 years in a row), hire people there and build some of your EU or global operations in Estonia.
What are the costs for the e-Residency programme?
Application for e-Residency costs 100-120 Euros whilst the status lasts for 5 years. Service provider packaged which include company establishment, Estonian contact person and address as well small bookkeeping-packages for the first year start from around 400 Euros for the first year of operations. Effective costs for bookkeeping and base services for small companies range somewhere between 50-200 Euros.

ein Artikel von
Michael André Ankermüller
Michael lebt in Berlin, beschäftigt sich gerne mit Wirtschafts- und Finanzthemen und arbeitet als Journalist, Blogger, Autor sowie Berater für Digitale Medien. 2014 gründete er das sehr erfolgreiche Blogazine Blog.Bohème.