Ioannides Demetriou LLC: Top Tier Firm in the Legal500 EMEA 2024 rankings

March 2024: IOANNIDES DEMETRIOU LLC has achieved top honours in The Legal 500 EMEA 2024 Rankings.

With top rankings in Banking and Finance, Commercial, Corporate and M&A, Dispute Resolution, Real Estate and Construction, and EU and Competition, our people also received notable recognitions for which we are proud.

The law firm of Ioannides Demetriou LLC has exceptional associates and partners. The associates of Ioannides Demetriou have extensive legal knowledge, are always eager to assist, prompt in their turnaround and a team with qualities that anyone is glad to work with.”

Chairman Pambos Ioannides is in the Hall of Fame for Corporate and M&A, a Leading Individual for Dispute Resolution, and Recommended for Banking & Finance, EU & Competition, and Real Estate and Construction.
Managing Director Andrew Demetriou is in the Hall of Fame for Real Estate & Construction, Dispute Resolution, and Recommended for Corporate and M&A, EU & Competition.
Partner Christina Ioannidou, is a Leading Individual for Banking & Finance, and Recommended for Corporate and M&A, Dispute Resolution, and EU & Competition.

Next Generation Partners: Katerina Hadjichristofi, Zoe Christou, Anna C. Christou, Savvas Yiordamlis, Theo Demetriou

Recommended Lawyers: Christos Frakalas, Demetris Kronides, Anna Christou, Nicolas Panayiotou, Elias Demetriou

Rising Star: Evie Constantinou

Note from the Editor at The Legal 500 Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Ella Marshall: “The EMEA guide provides researched coverage of over 80 countries and over 2,700 ranked law firms. Law firms pay nothing to participate and so we are free to make ranking decisions on merit alone.

Our research is conducted annually, providing a detailed qualitative assessment of various factors including work conducted by law firms over the past 12 months and historically; experience and depth of teams; specialisms and ancillary services; and, importantly, opinions of law firms’ clients – each year, The Legal 500 series contacts over 300,000 clients globally to obtain feedback on which law firms meet the criteria required by today’s in-house counsel and business leaders, wherever in the world their work takes them. All of this is used to benchmark each law firm versus competitors in the practice area in question.”

For more information contact us here.

The abolition of the UK’s non-dom regime – Should UK non-doms consider relocation to Cyprus?

The abolition of the UK non-domiciled (or non-dom) status in the last UK budget marks the end of an era for the UK’s tax system. It might also be a game-changer in global mobility as many UK resident non-domiciled individuals might seek to relocate to other jurisdictions in order to shield their overseas earnings from taxation. One such jurisdiction could be Cyprus.

What are the UK’s non-dom rules?

Broadly, non-doms are individuals who are resident in the UK, but who claim that their domicile, being the centre of their personal and financial interests, is outside of the UK. Crucially, hitherto, a non-domiciled individual who was UK tax resident was broadly taxed on income and gains on a remittance basis only by contrast to a UK tax resident and domiciled individual who was taxed on income and gains on a worldwide basis, irrespective of remittance. The UK rules changed a few years ago whereby the non-dom status became time limited and, in fact, after a number of years, a hefty remittance basis charge was levied in order to benefit from the exemption. Nevertheless, it still remained an attractive (optional) regime for high net worth individuals with foreign earnings.

Following last week’s UK budget, the non-dom regime will be abolished from 6 April 2025. In its place, the UK government has introduced a new residence-based regime taking effect from April 2025. What is crucial to note is that the new foreign income and gains regime will be relevant only as far as new tax residents are concerned. This is because under the new regime, individuals who have been non-UK tax resident for at least 10 consecutive years will, regardless of domicile status, be eligible to use the new regime for four years.

Very importantly, under the new regime, non-UK income and gains will not be taxable in the UK and can be brought (i.e. remitted) to the UK without UK taxation during an individual’s four-year eligibility period. From the fifth year of UK tax residence onwards, an individual will be chargeable to UK income tax and capital gains tax on worldwide basis.

It would appear that the new regime will apply to all individuals becoming tax resident in the UK after not being tax resident for 10 consecutive years, irrespective of whether they are UK domiciled. As such, this new regime is likely to be very attractive to (UK) expats who decide to return to the UK.

Although Cyprus has many UK expats, as explained in this newsletter, Cyprus also has a very attractive non-dom regime. Therefore, it is unlikely that UK expats living in Cyprus would relocate to the UK just to benefit from the new regime, as many of the benefits of this regime are essentially replicated in Cyprus’ non-dom regime and for 17 years as opposed to the four years provided for by the UK non-dom regime.

What is likely to happen now is a competition between countries with preferential regimes for high net worth individuals to attract UK non-doms who will no longer benefit from the UK tax regime.

Cyprus is such a jurisdiction with an attractive system overall, combined with special privileges to non-domiciled tax residents.

The concept of domicile in Cyprus law originates from the Wills and Succession Law (Cap 195), which is based on English law. This law provides that every person has a domicile of origin or a domicile of choice. An individual’s domicile of origin is that of his/her father’s domicile (at birth). A person acquires a domicile of choice by establishing his home at any place with the intention of permanent or indefinite residence therein. The domicile of origin prevails and is retained until a domicile of choice is in fact acquired. Under the Special Contribution for Defence Law, a non-domiciled individual may be deemed as domiciled in Cyprus if he/she has been a Cypriot tax resident for at least 17 out of the last 20 years prior to the relevant tax year. This means that Cyprus’ non-dom privileges are available for 17 years.

But what are these non-dom privileges?

The combined application of Cyprus’ tax laws (i.e the Income Tax Law and the Special Contribution for Defence Law) allows Cyprus tax resident individuals who are not domiciled in Cyprus to be exempt on their worldwide dividends and interest, whether remitted to Cyprus or not. It is noteworthy that the exemption applies even if the dividends and interest have a domestic source (i.e. they are derived from Cyprus). There is also an exemption from the special defense contribution tax for rental income (but income tax is payable).

In addition to these privileges, the Cyprus tax system has other advantageous features for tax residents in general, whether domiciled or not.

For example, under Cyprus’ Capital Gains Tax Law, capital gains tax is only imposed on the sale of immovable property situated in Cyprus, and for the sale of shares in companies in which the underlying asset is immovable property situated in Cyprus. There is no capital gains tax in Cyprus for any other disposals. This means that the disposal of any other securities (shares, bonds, tradable contracts etc.) are not subject to tax in Cyprus.

Τhere is also a special tax regime for foreign pension income, which is exempt from tax up to €3,420 per year and taxed at only 5% above that threshold.

Furthermore, Cyprus does not have any inheritance tax or gift tax. Again, these rules are applicable to all Cyprus tax residents – whether domiciled or not.

It should be pointed out that dividends and interest received and pensions are subject to 2.65% General Healthcare System Contributions (GESY). However, this is capped so that for every natural person, the total maximum annual amount on which contributions will be paid is €180,000. This means that the maximum annual amount of GESY contribution levied is €4,770.

Another important tax exemption available to all Cyprus tax residents (whether domiciled or not) is the exemption on income from services rendered outside of Cyprus for more than 90 days in a tax year. The services must be rendered to a non-Cypriot tax resident employer. This, combined with the 50% exemption rule for individuals taking up employment in Cyprus (subject to some other conditions) makes relocation to Cyprus a very attractive option for UK non-doms who wish to explore other jurisdictions.

Of course, in order to access these benefits, as a non-dom or not, it is a prerequisite to become tax resident in Cyprus. For an individual to become tax resident in Cyprus, he/she must be resident in Cyprus for 183 days in the relevant tax year and must not reside more than 183 days per year in another jurisdiction. There is also a quicker route to becoming tax resident in Cyprus under the 60-day rule. Under this rule, an individual must spend at least 60 days in Cyprus in the relevant tax year and must not spend more than 183 days in another jurisdiction. The individual must also maintain a permanent home in Cyprus (owned or rented) and must carry on a business in Cyprus or be employed in Cyprus or hold an office with a tax resident of Cyprus during the relevant tax year.

On the basis of the 60-day rule, it is relatively easy to establish tax residence in Cyprus and obtain the non-dom status, if the aim is to access the specific privileges attached to this status.

Whether or not the abolition of the UK’s non-dom regime will lead to an exodus of high net worth individuals from the UK remains to be seen.

It is worth pointing out however that even before the changes to the UK non-dom regime were abolished Cyprus has for a long time now offered an advantageous tax regime for individuals wishing to take the relatively simple steps required to relocate their residence/domicile to Cyprus.

For information on any of the issues raised in this newsletter, please get in touch with us and note that working closely with our associated corporate services provider Nobel Trust we are able provide the full range of advice and services for anybody wishing to be advised as to the benefits of considering Cyprus as a replacement for UK non-dom status.

The regulation of the content of B2C contracts under Cypriot contract law

Effective consumer protection is an area still in the earliest stages of its development in the Cypriot legal system. Prior to the adoption of Directive 93/13 which provided a substantive test of unfairness and which regulated the content of business contracts through ensuring that unfair terms not be considered binding to consumers, the Cypriot legal system did not provide for a level of consumer protection through statutory or case law. In essence, no measures existed aimed at protecting consumers against contract terms that had not been individually negotiated by consumers in advance and which in turn could grant a considerable advantage to businesses.

Such terms often come in the form of exclusion clauses which can exclude or restrict liability, make the liability or its enforcement subject to restrictive conditions, or exclude or restrict a person from pursuing a right or remedy. As the characteristic of an unfair term is one which increases the number or the difficulty of a party’s obligations, even a force majeure clause may come to be considered unfair if intentionally worded vaguely. If a seller can unilaterally determine a force majeure clause for example, then what is to prevent them from defining a reasonably foreseeable phenomenon as grounds for the removal of liability? Where standard form contracts were established to facilitate commercial transactions and better define the rights and obligations of the two parties, a unilateral approach to the definition of these terms by sellers would necessarily come at the cost of the consumer, who was faced with either accepting these terms or be deprived of the sought goods or services.

Prior to Directive 93/13, Cypriot consumers only had recourse to general principles of contract law and primarily procedural safeguards provided by the Contract Law, Cap. 149 i.e. the key law governing contracts in Cyprus. However and while generally sufficient, Cap. 149 was inadequate in providing the necessary tools in dealing with unfair contract terms, making the implementation of Directive 93/13 necessary for enhanced consumer protection.

Procedural Safeguards of Cap. 149

It could be argued that, in relation to regulating the use of unfair terms, the common law of contract is less concerned with the substance of the contract and more so with the procedure leading to its conclusion. If no illegality is found in what preceded the conclusion of the contract, which could in any way impact the will of the parties to be bound in contract, common law courts would hesitate in intervening since the determination of the substance of the contract remains, based on the principle of privity of contract, within the exclusive competence and autonomy of the parties.

As such, section 13 of Cap. 149, with its emphasis on the concurrence of wills, established that consent is considered a central concept of contract conclusion. If consent is considered to be given “freely”, then the contract is to be respected. With the intention to ensure this, section 14 of Cap. 149 codified a number of principles in order to safeguard that the parties’ consent is “free”, which include provisions on coercion, undue influence, fraud, misrepresentation and mistake.

Yet, beyond the rules established in section 14 emphasizing procedural fairness, Cap. 149 did not provide the necessary tools for examining the substantive unfairness of contract terms. Contrarily, while the Indian Contract Act introduced similar procedural rules, Indian courts also made use of the public policy exception under their section 23 (identical to section 23 of Cap. 149) to strike down contracts whose terms were labelled as contrary to public policy, thereby invoking the illegality of the contract’s object or consideration.

In conclusion, Cypriot law follows the general position of English contract law, where the latter has long taken the view that acceptance of the principles of freedom of contract, the binding force of contracts and the lack of a general principle of good faith and fair dealing precludes the review of the fairness of either the contract as whole or of its particular terms. This can most notably be seen in the instance of contract formation. While a promise could not be considered valid without the corresponding consideration, the acknowledgment of an inadequate or nominal consideration signifies that a substantive inequality of bargaining power is not seen as a ground for a vitiation of a contract.

As regards the fairness of particular contract terms, the common law approach can be illustrated most explicitly in its acceptance of the validity of exemption clauses. That is, when once agreed between the parties, knowingly or otherwise, these clauses can effectively exclude liability both in contract and in tort, severely impacting the balance of rights and obligations between the parties. However, beyond a favorable interpretation of the contract in favor of the weaker party in instances of inequality of bargaining power but also through the use of the contra preferentem principle in instances of ambiguity in interpretation of an exclusion clause, and save in instances of a fundamental breach of contract, the Cypriot contract law tools seemed inadequate in properly regulating the use of unfair terms.

Prior to the transposition of Directive 93/13, Cypriot courts had lacked the legal tools to confront the challenges that came with standard form contracts and in particular seemed unwilling to examine the parties’ initial allocation of risk, even if it was done unilaterally and in a standardized manner by one of the contracting parties. Instead of focusing on the pursuit of mutual assent, the courts were content with the finding of the external communication of intention by the parties through their signatures to the contract. Since both parties seemingly gave their consent to be bound by the contract, Cypriot courts appeared hesitant in interfering with its individual terms, beyond through the use of the above mentioned procedural safeguards in instances where the parties consent to be bound could be impacted. These legal circumstances are what justified the need for the implementation of Directive 93/13. It provided courts the ability to control unfair terms in consumer contracts, though the granting of discretionary power as to the interpretation of the substantive unfairness of contract terms through the control of their content. However, while there is still very limited Cypriot case law applying the Directive’s robust two-tiered unfairness test, it remains to be seen if future applications of this test by the Cypriot courts can promote effective consumer protection or if additional national legislation is required to this end.

–> Contact us here for any information on how we can assist you with the application of Directive 93/13 to your consumer contracts