Taxation of Real Estate Transactions: A Comparative Study of Selected Mediterranean Jurisdictions
By Marin Ljubić
Marin Ljubić is Candidate of Postgraduate Doctoral Study of the Fiscal System and the Fiscal Policy, the Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb, in Croatia. He holds a master’s degree in Business Economics, Department of Finance from the Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb. His areas of interest include residence and citizenship related questions, immigration law, and real estate law. He focuses on monitoring property taxation environment in the Mediterranean region and aims to settle title to ownership disputes in this region, through the "Mediterra Squares" project, run by LJUBIC Law Firm and several partners. He is also a founder of non-profit community titled "Wells of Hope," a project committed to drilling water wells in third-world countries.
Published July/August 2022
Table of Contents
Introduction and Scope
This comparative article details the legal and tax framework of foreigners acquiring real estate in a specific set of European jurisdictions, including Portugal, Croatia, Lebanon, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. There is no unified tax policy between the countries when it comes to foreign real estate demand, even in greater institutional and economic unions like the European Union for instance. It mainly leans on ever-changing national policies, which lie between protections of national interest and a proactive investment environment, using foreign demand for the domestic housing market as the initial stage of foreign direct investments (FDI).
Many countries differentiate tax positions of residents and non-residents, or citizens and non-citizens. Therefore, taxation proceedings can be more than confusing for the average real estate acquirer, especially if you are a foreigner to your desired destination. Debates about the influence of foreign buyers on local housing affordability have consequently come to the forefront of policy discourse in many countries and cities around the globe, with many local authorities responding by enacting policies to limit foreigner presence in the domestic real estate sector as the product. Therefore, if you find yourself at the foreign demand side of the real estate story, this guide is here to help with understanding all transactional costs coming along with buying property abroad, introducing you taxation framework with some common tips and proceedings.
Subject of Research
In order to provide a comprehensive angle to foreign real estate acquisition, each jurisdiction is divided into three main sections to address the questions that often create the most doubt and uncertainty in international real estate transactions. Therefore, the research will be presented as follows:
- Can foreign legal and natural persons be entitled to real estate in XY jurisdiction?
- 1A: Conditions for title to real estate; list of countries with reciprocity rule, concerning the right to purchase.
- 1B: Legal restrictions to foreign persons.
- What taxes are related to the buying process of real estate in XY jurisdiction?
- Legislative framework.
As the Mediterranean region is not politically nor economically harmonized and unified, interested parties in matters of real estate acquisition could face hard times in searching for a complete legal framework. The Mediterranean region presents geographical and historical uniqueness, as cultural, social, and trade exchanges have developed this area over thousands of years. The region can be considered a melting pot of world cultures and today consists of EU and non-EU countries, on the south and north shores respectively.
Sitting at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia, the Mediterranean has been a hub for transport, trade, and tourism for millennia. Since the turn of the second decade of this century (post-2008 financial crisis) the region has experienced massive inflows of wealthy foreign capital, much of which is invested in real estate. The Mediterranean region is the most popular macro-region tourist destination in the world, welcoming more than 400 million international tourists arrivals (ITAs) in 2019 alone, with a steady annual growth of 4.9% since 1995. It is more than inevitable that this great pot of tourists creates notable real estate demand in this area.
Purchasing a property in the Mediterranean comes with a wide array of investment advantages but also many uncertainties, especially for foreign investors. Non-citizens need to put great effort into getting familiar with all of the region’s legal requirements, as they do not have any similar patterns. Tax rates, exemptions, buying proceedings, payment options – a lot of challenges for any local, let alone a foreign investor. The Mediterranean, both cultural and economic, attracts many potential second-home seekers. But aside from sales prices, there are several other factors that buyers need to take into account.
1) Can foreign legal and natural persons be entitled to real estate in Portugal?
Yes, any foreign natural or legal person can buy real estate in Portugal. The Constitution of Portugal allows the purchase of real estate in the country to all foreign nationals, but also to stateless persons. The procedures that a non-citizen (or a citizen of another EU country) must go through when buying land in Portugal are almost the same as for citizens, with some peculiarities, which refer to tax rates.
Special Program – “Portugal Golden Visa”
Portugal is widely known for its Golden Visa program, under which the Portuguese government encourages foreigners to invest in real estate or businesses in Portugal. If you are not an EU citizen and you are investing in property of a certain value, you can qualify for a Golden Visa residence permit in Portugal. This permit allows you to live, work, and study in Portugal and travel freely in the Schengen area. A person holding this kind of visa for more than five years has the right to apply for full Portuguese citizenship.
In order to be eligible to apply for a Golden Visa, the investment threshold is anywhere €280,000 to €500,000 (€1 million for financial investments), depending on the manner and purpose of the investment, or the area where property is located. The level of the minimum investment threshold changes depending on whether investing nature is residential or non-residential real estate, renovation proceedings, financial investments, establishment of a company in Portugal, etc.
Once the new Decree Law 14/2021, entering into force on 1 January 2022, the above-mentioned conditions will become less favourable for persons wishing to obtain a Golden Visa. All applications for a Golden Visa, which have been submitted before the entry into force of these new provisions, however, will be approved according to the current rules. Namely, according to the new conditions, the minimum threshold for financial investment will be raised. Current prescribed transfer of at least €1.0 million will be increased to a minimum of €1.5 million, and investments in residential real estate will be limited to inland-situated real estate and on the islands of the Azores and Madeira.
1A - List of countries with reciprocity rule
For Portugal, there is no list of countries with reciprocity rule for acquiring real estate, as anyone can purchase property.
1B - Restrictions to foreign persons
Following 1A, any foreign natural or legal person — whether a citizen of an EU country, a citizen of a non-EU country, or a stateless person — may purchase real estate in Portugal without any restrictions. The only difference that occurs between domestic and foreign citizens is related to tax rates and fees when buying real estate.
2) What taxes are related to the buying process of real estate?
There are certain taxes related with real estate transactions in Portugal that buyers must pay, especially for non-residents and non-citizens. In Portugal, a resident is considered one who spends 183 days or more living in that country in one year (tax calendar year) or has a primary address there. Therefore, the recommendation is to apply for a residence permit (Golden Visa) when buying a property in Portugal, of course, once the conditions are met.
If you opt to buy real estate as a non-resident, after deciding which property is one to buy, it is necessary to obtain the taxpayer identification number (Numero de Indentificacao Fiscal - NIF), which can be obtained from any state finance office. This is not obligatory for other EU citizens, while everyone else must have an NIF, as well as a fiscal representative in Portugal, who can be a natural or legal person.
The largest tax expense is the Municipal Property Transfer Tax (Imposto Municipal sobre Transmissoes - IMT), which can vary up to 10% for non-residents, to evenwith the possibility of a tax exemption for those who buy cheaper real estate as a first home (for instance: When the property a person buys represents primary residence, they will not have to pay IMT on the first €92,407 of the purchase price). IMT is payable depending on the type of the property.
Municipal Property Tax (Imposto Municipal Sobre Imóveis - IMI) is an annual tax form paid by the owner of the property in Portugal. Taxes vary from municipality to municipality, and tax rates range from 0.3% to 0.45% for urban properties and fixed rate of 0.8% for rural ones.
Following the approval of the Portuguese Budget Law for 2021, declared 31 December 2020, several changes have taken effect regarding real estate yearly taxation in the jurisdiction. The main change is related to the real estate owned by companies based in “blacklist” territories (so-called tax havens — e.g., British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, etc.), which are now taxed at a rate of 7.5%, increased from 0.8%.
Property tax is paid regarding the previous year, within the following deadlines:
- Amount equal to or less than 100.00 € - An annual payment, in April;
- Amount exceeding 100.00 € and not exceeding 500.00 € - Two instalments, in April and November;
- Amount exceeding 500.00 € - Three instalments in April, July and November.
Some properties are exempted from this tax. The exemption applies for a three-year period, in the case of urban real estate with a tax registration value of up to €125,000, owned by individuals who earned taxable income up to €153,300 in the year prior to acquisition.
The Addition to the Municipal Property Tax (Adicional ao Imposto Municipal de Imóveis - AIMI), so called wealth tax, applies as follows:
- For Individuals:
- If the sum of all rateable values (Valor Patrimonial Tributável – VPT) equals or exceeds €600,000, or €1.2 million for married or cohabiting couples who opt to submit a joint tax return, the AIMI is charged at 0.7% on the sum of all VPT over €600,000 and up to €1 million, 1% on the sum of all VPT over €1 million and up to €2 million, and 1.5% on the sum of all VPT over €2 million.
- For Corporations:
- Properties held by companies pay an additional bill of 0.4% on the full VPT value. Here also can be found “blacklisted jurisdiction” qualification; the company registered in some of these countries will pay AIMI of 7.5% on the full VPT value, in addition to the previously described IMI charge of 7.5%.
Real estate purchased in Portugal is also subject to a capital gains tax (Imposto Sobre O Rendimento De Pessoas Singulares - Mais Valias) – the tax which applies at profit from selling the property.
If you are a non-resident, for tax purposes the tax applicable to your capital gain will be 28%. If, however, you are resident, the tax will be levied only on 50% of the gain and you will be taxed according to the tax bracket applicable to your overall income.
The exemption from capital gains tax in Portugal in following two scenarios:
- if the property in question was first purchased in the same name before January 1989.
- if a person wishes to invest the money obtained from the sale of a primary residence in Portugal in another primary residence in the EU or in Portugal.
In addition to taxes, when buying real estate in Portugal you need to pay the following:
- Notary and Land Register fees shall be paid together and shall generally range from 0.2% to 1.2% of the value of the property.
- Stamp Duty (IS - Imposto De Selo) - When property is transferred for consideration it is subject to a flat rate of 0.8% stamp duty. Stamp Duty will be calculated on the price paid in the transaction or on the value of the real estate assessed by the Tax Authority (VPT), whichever is higher.
3) Legislative framework
- Act No. 75-B/2020, (Portuguese Budget Law for 2021)
- Act No. 82-E/2014, Republic Diary No. 252/2015, Series I of 2014-12-31, 2014.,
- Decree Law 14/2021, from February 12, 2021, Republic Diary No. 30/2021, Series I of 2021-02-12, 2021.
- Decree Law 287/2003, Republic Diary No. 262/2003, Series I of 2003-11-12, 2003.
- Portugese Civil Code (1967)
- Stamp Duty Code
- Portal of Portuguese Communities – Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Assignment of Identification Number (AIN) (Taxpayer identification number|Número de Identificação Fiscal (NIF)); obligation procedure for non-EU residents when buying property in Portugal
- ARI - Residence permit for investment activity (Residence permit for investment activities on several grounds, incorporated in the Golden Visa programme)
- Portugal Global, Invest in Portugal – Fiscal System (Municipal Property Transfer Tax (IMT) further explanation)
1) Can foreign legal and natural persons be entitled to real estate in the Republic of Croatia?
Foreign legal and natural persons have the right to acquire real estate in the Republic of Croatia, provided that Croatian citizens can acquire real estate ownership according to the law of the state to which that foreign person belongs (reciprocity rule). Citizens of the European Union and Switzerland can acquire real estate regardless of reciprocity.
Another additional presumption and unavoidable condition that must be met when acquiring real estate ownership rights based on a legal transaction is the consent of the Ministry of Justice: See Article 357, paragraph 1 of the Law on Property and Other Real Rights of the Republic of Croatia). The Minister decides on the party who intends to acquire ownership of a certain real estate or a person who intends to sell that particular real estate (Article 357, paragraph 2).
IMPORTANT FACT: If a foreigner is denied by application for acquiring ownership of real estate, he cannot re-apply for consent to acquire ownership of the same real estate for five years, dating from the day the first application was denied.
1A - Reciprocity rule status of real estate ownership rights with the Republic of Croatia
The Law on Ownership and Other Property Rights prescribes conditions for foreigners in real estate acquisition in the territory of the Republic of Croatia. Generally speaking, no foreigner can be entitled to real estate ownership, besides EU or Croatian citizens, no matter where the residence of the latter is. If you enjoy Croatian descent and would like to check some common observations regarding this topic, see How to get and enjoy Croatian citizenship by descent.
In addition, there are some exemptions regarding real estate ownership for foreigners conducted under the rule of reciprocity, which equalize status of foreigners with the domestic citizens. To be more precise, the term reciprocity means that the foreign persons in the Republic of Croatia can get title to real estate with the same conditions as a country of their origin grants to the citizens of the Republic of Croatia. To see a complete list of countries Croatia has regulated reciprocity rule status with, see Information on reciprocity rule in the acquisition of real estate ownership rights with Croatia
1B - Restrictions to foreign persons
Restrictions on agricultural land
Agricultural land is classified as a good of special interest to the Republic of Croatia and as such enjoys the category of protected property. Therefore, the Agricultural Land Act, in Article 2, paragraph 2, in the main part excluded the possibility of acquiring the right of ownership of foreign legal and natural persons on agricultural land.
However, there are situations in which the acquisition of agricultural land may still occur by foreign legal and physical:
- By inheritance
- International agreements
- Special regulations
When we talk about the acquisition of ownership of agricultural goods, then there is no separation of foreign legal and natural persons from the Member States of the European Union and those from other countries (so-called third countries) – they all are in the same position in relation to the named restriction. However, this restriction for foreign legal and natural persons from the Member States of the European Union and the countries party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) is valid only till 1 July 2023.
It is important to point out that self-employed farmers, who are citizens of another EU Member State and who wish to settle and reside in the Republic of Croatia, are not subject to this restriction, nor to any rules and procedures other than those applicable to domestic natural persons.
Restrictions to forests and forest land
One of the restrictions on the acquisition of real estate ownership is the one related to forests and forest lands prescribed by Article 56, paragraph 2 of the Forest Act, which stipulates that foreign legal and natural persons may not acquire ownership of forests and forest land, unless otherwise provided by an international agreement. This restriction applies only to foreign legal and natural persons who do not belong to a Member State of the European Union. This would mean that foreign legal and natural persons from the Member States of the European Union could acquire ownership of forests and forest land without restrictions.
Persons of Croatian ethnicity from Bosnia and Herzegovina enjoy special treatment and exclusion from restrictions on those from third countries. This neighboring country is the homeland of many Croats who are granted the same citizen rights as they live in the territory of the Republic of Croatia. The reason lays at the fact of giving full citizenship right for any newborn of Croatian descent, as Croatia is one of the guarantors by the Dayton Agreement with whom modern Bosnia and Herzegovina has been formed, which is represented as dual citizenship between these countries.
2) What taxes relate to the buying process of real estate?
In the Republic of Croatia, the acquisition of real estate is subject to real estate transfer tax or value added tax (VAT). VAT is calculated at the rate of 25% when real estate transactions are carried out by persons registered in the VAT system when they deliver, donate, or otherwise transfer construction land and buildings or parts of buildings and if the construction land, buildings or parts of buildings are inhabited or used less than two years.
For any other transfer, the real estate transfer tax is calculated and paid. By the Article 4 of Real Estate Transfer Tax Act, every real estate transfer shall refer to any acquisition of real estate in the Republic of Croatia. Real estate acquisition shall refer to buying and selling, exchanging, inheriting, gifting, entering real property to and exempting it from a company, adverse possession, real estate acquisition in liquidation or bankruptcy proceedings, acquisition on the basis of a decision by a court or other authority, acquisition under law, and other ways of acquiring real estate from other persons. The current real estate transfer tax rate is 3% (downgraded form 5% and 4% respectively).
If the real estate in the Republic of Croatia is acquired by a foreigner from a third country, a legal or natural person, the tax paying obligation occurs at the time of obtaining the consent of the Minister of Justice.
The delivery of agricultural and forestland is exempt from VAT in all variants, with the buyer of the land paying 3% real estate transfer tax. Namely, the same Act in Article 13 of the Real Estate Transfer Tax Act prescribes exemptions from taxation of this tax form, divided in three main categories:
- The first category belongs to real estate owned by the Republic of Croatia, local and regional self-government units, state authorities, diplomatic and consular representative offices on the condition of reciprocity, confiscated real estate in the process of return and land consolidation, etc.
- The second exemption is when entering real estate into a company. Therefore, real estate entered into the capital of a company either in a merger and acquisition or in a division into more companies is not taxed.
- The third exemption is in inheritance, gift, or other acquisition free of charge. The following persons are taxation-exempt:
- Spouse, descendants, and ancestors who form an upright line and adoptees and adoptive parents who are in that relationship with the deceased or the donor.
- Legal and natural persons to whom the Republic of Croatia or a unit of local and regional self-government donates, i.e., gives real estate without compensation related to the Homeland War.
- Ex-spouses when arranging their property relations.
Furthermore, the Republic of Croatia has a capital gain tax on selling property (based on the alienation of real estate), which is prescribed by Article 56 of Income Tax Act. It is calculated and paid if the natural person disposes of the real estate within two years from the date of its acquisition and if the natural person sells, exchanges, or performs another taxable transfer of ownership over more than three real estates of the same type within five years from the date of their acquisition. Capital gains from the sale of the real estate are subject to a flat withholding tax rate of 20%, where tax base is the difference between the market values of the property in the moment of alienation and acquisition.
The calculated amount of income tax is subject to surtax on income tax if it is prescribed for the city or municipality in which your residence or usual residence is registered. According to the Law on Local Taxes, Chapter 2, Section 3, tax on holiday homes is paid by legal and natural persons who own holiday homes. A holiday home is considered any building or part of a building; or an apartment that is used occasionally or seasonally. Taxation amount varies from HRK 5.00 to HRK 15.00 per one square meter of usable area of a holiday home, which is prescribed by a decision of the municipality or city.
3) Legislative framework
- Law on Ownership and Other Property Rights (Official Gazette 91/96, 68/98, 137/99, 22/00, 73/00, 129/00, 114/01, 79/06, 141/06, 146 / 08, 38/09, 153/09, 143/12, 152/14)
- Inheritance Act (Official Gazette 48/03, 163/03, 35/05, 127/13, 33/15, 14/19)
- Law on Agricultural Land (Official Gazette 20/18, 115/18, 98/19)
- Law on Forests (Official Gazette 68/18, 115/18, 98/19, 32/20, 145/20)
- Real Estate Transfer Tax Act (Official Gazette No. 115/2016, 106/2018)
- Law on Value Added Tax (Official Gazette 73/2013, 99/2013, 148/2013, 153/2013, 143/2014, 115/2016, 106/2018, 121/2019, 138/2020)
- Income Tax Act (Official Gazette 15/16, 106/18, 121/19, 32/20, 138/20)
- Law on Local Taxes, Official Gazette 115/16, 101/17
- Ljubic Law Firm, Information on Reciprocity rule for acquisition of real estate in the Republic of Croatia (last visited August 2022)
1) Can foreign legal and natural persons be entitled to real estate in Lebanon?
Everyone is eligible to buy real estate of any kind at the territory of Lebanon under certain conditions (check 1B for more). Law No. 296 (3 April 2001) eased legal limits on foreign ownership of property to encourage investment in Lebanon, especially in industry and tourism, abolished discrimination for property ownership between Arab and non-Arab nationals and set real estate registration fees at approximately 6% percent for both Lebanese and foreign investors.
1A - List of countries with reciprocity rule/permission to domestic real estate transactions
For Lebanon, there is no list of countries with reciprocity rule for acquiring real estate, as anyone can become the owner of property.
1B - Restrictions to foreign persons
A foreign natural or legal person, as well as a Lebanese legal person that is considered a party, may own land up to 3,000 square meters in total (including buildings) without prior permission or approval of local authorities.
If one would like to acquire land larger than 3000 square meters, one must obtain a license issued by a decree of the Council of Ministers at the proposal of the Ministry of Finance. The procedure itself is clear, but very time consuming due to the large number of permits required obtaining a license. The process can take more than a year and may depend on the political situation in which the country finds itself. Foreigners are granted a period of one year from the date of publication in the Official Gazette to purchase and register real estate in Lebanon, after which the permit is revoked. This period shall cease to run in the event of litigation between the licensee and the previous owner or any other legal dispute.
For the construction of real estate, foreigners are granted a period of five years from the date of registration in which the project/building should be completed, provided that this period can be renewed once by a decision of the Council of Ministers. If the owner does not adhere to the purpose for which the license was obtained, the Ministry of Finance may revoke the license and sell the property, retaining the capital gain.
Foreign legal entities do not have the possibility to increase their foreign shareholding by exchanging a Lebanese partner (except in the event of the death of a shareholder), as they face a penalty and a fine of up to three times the value of the property. Property rights can be transferred by inheritance to both legal heirs and unlicensed Lebanese citizens. Nevertheless, when ownership is transferred in any other way to a foreigner, including a partner/shareholder in the event of the dissolution of the company, that person also needs to obtain a license.
There are also certain territorial restrictions for foreigners in acquiring property rights in Lebanon. Foreigners may not own more than
- 3% of the total area of Lebanese territory;
- 3% of land in each caze;
- 10% of the land in the Beirut city area.
2) What taxes are related to the buying process of real estate?
- real estate transfer tax
- built property tax
- municipality tax
- capital gain tax
The final duty to be paid in order to register a real estate in Lebanon by a Lebanese as the non-Lebanese is equivalent to 5.8% of the value of the real estate (real estate transfer tax), with addition of the financial stamp fee of 0.4%, the notary public fee of 0.1%, the municipality charge 0.25% and the flat sum collected upon registration in the real estate register.
Also according to Law No 64 dated October 26, 2017, a down payment of 2% is required on the Tax on real estate sale contract should be paid within 15 days of the contract date. This down payment will be deducted from the total registration fees provided that the registration occurs within one year from the contract date. Where this condition is not met, the down payment is not refundable. This is not a new tax but its payment is now required within a short period of time to force the registration of purchased real estate properties.
Built property tax is a progressive tax applied on annual net rental proceeds and ranges between 4% to 14%, according to a progressive tax scheme, and it belongs to the annual tax category. A taxpayer may submit a request of extraction to the Ministry of Finance subject to specific conditions.
Exemptions from property tax obligation apply for following categories:
- Public buildings
- Places of worship
- Embassies or consular offices
- Association or syndicate headquarters
The following may be exempt from property tax if the government agrees:
- Non-profit hospitals, clinics, schools, or buildings donated for these purposes
- Buildings that house sports facilities, welfare organizations, social clubs, cultural centers, public health organizations, political parties, or labor unions
Municipality tax is a flat tax paid annually at a rate of 8.5% of the yearly rent amount or the rental value of premises.
Regarding the capital gain tax, Article 13, paragraph 3 of Law 64 (26 October 2017) has broadened the scope of the tax to include the gain on disposal of real estate properties realized by:
- individuals and entities exempted from the income tax or
- individuals subject to income tax but selling real estate properties that are not part of their professional business
…are subject to 15% capital gain tax rate.
The primary and secondary residence of individuals (maximum of two residences) and real estate properties held by individuals for more than 12 years (8% deduction from the capital gain per year held) are exempted from capital gain tax.
3) Legislative framework
Today, there are three laws which comprise the main framework of real estate acquisition:
- Law 11614 dated January 4, 1969
- Law No 296 dated April 3, 2001
- Law No 64 dated October 26, 2017
(NOTE: access to the above Acts is possible based on your IP address.)
- ALDIC, Briefing of Tax Law 64 dated 26 October 2017 (Briefing of Tax Law 64 dated 26 October 2017, Lebanese Association for Taxpayers’ Rights and Interests (ALDIC)
- Acquisition of Real Estate Rights by Foreigners in Lebanon Duties of Registering Real Estates in the Real Estte Register (Law 296/2001 main provisions and impacts (related to foreign title to real estate in Lebanon))
- Idal Invest in Lebanon, Know Your Taxes, Business Support Unit, at page 6 (last visited August 2022)
- IDAL, Legal Framework for Ownership of land in Lebanon (last visited August 2022) (Legal framework for ownership of land in Lebanon, Invest in Lebanon)
- US Department of State, 2021 Investment Climate Statements: Lebanon – Executive Summary (last visited August 2022)
- Simon El kai, Souraya Machnouk, Hachem el Housseini and Calros Abou Jaoude, The Inward Investment and International Taxation Review: Lebanon, Abou Jaoude & Associates Law Firm (February 3, 2022)
- Mediterra Squares, Lebanon – What to Expect (last visited August 2022) (Overview on the Lebanese real estate taxation environment, The Mediterra Squares (Kvadrati Mediterana) project)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
1) Can foreign legal and natural persons be entitled to real estate in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Foreign legal and natural persons can get title to real estate ownership in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the rule of reciprocity (see more at 1A section). Exceptions exist when such a right is acquired by inheritance unless otherwise provided by law or international agreement. Reciprocity is assumed; therefore, every year the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Ministry of Justice and the Republika Srpska Ministry of Justice publish the list of the countries Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have a reciprocity in acquiring real estate titles with, or with which reciprocity is restricted by special conditions.
1A - Reciprocity rule status of real estate ownership rights with the Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Law on Property/Real Rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina prescribes a legal framework for foreigners to become real estate owners with the rule of reciprocity. The term reciprocity means that the foreign persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina can get title to real estate with the same conditions as a country of their origin grants the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. To look into the list of countries Bosnia and Herzegovina has regulated reciprocity rule status with, see Information on reciprocity rule in the acquisition of real estate ownership rights with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
To avoid restrictions on the acquisition of real estate, the ideal option if one enjoys Bosnian and Herzegovinian descent to apply for citizenship. Then the one would not be declared as a foreigner, vanishing all mentioned restrictions.
1B - Restrictions to foreign persons
Article 16, paragraph 1 of the Law on Property/Real Rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina prescribes certain restrictions on real estate titles for foreigners. Foreigners may not own real estate in territories designated by the Law in order to protect the interests and security of both the Federation and the Republika Srpska. If a foreign person has acquired the right of ownership over the real estate before territory where the real estate lies has been declared the area referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article, the right of ownership over that real estate shall cease and the foreign person shall be entitled to compensation according to expropriation regulations.
2) What taxes relate to the buying process of real estate?
The decentralization of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Entities and Brčko District had a direct impact on the country’s fiscal system. The tax system, especially the area of direct taxes, is governed by the laws of the Entities and Brcko District. (NOTE: In this paper, we will only stick to the two Entities that cover 99% of Bosnia and Herzegovina territory.) When it comes to the entity of the Federation of BiH, the matter is even more complex. The decentralization of the Federation to ten Cantons results in adoption of different, non-harmonized or non-homogeneous legislation, primarily in taxation of direct taxes.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the acquisition of real estate is subject to real estate transfer tax or value added tax (VAT) on the national level. VAT is calculated at 17% at the national level when real estate transactions are carried out by persons registered in the VAT system, in the cases of the first transaction of real estate. The issue of real estate transfer tax assessment in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is regulated by the Canton legislature, whereas all ten Cantons have a similar approach to the subject matter, with tax rate and taxation exemption as the only difference. In the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), the tax rate amounts to 5%. The Republika Srpska (RS) did not introduce this tax form.
Capital gain tax
In Federation of BiH, Articles 20 and 32 of the Law on Personal Income Tax of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina prescribes that if the purchased property is sold within three years from the date of its purchase, capital gain tax is paid on difference between purchased and sold price with the flat withholding tax rate of 10%.
In Republika Srpska the tax rate at capital gain from real estate alienation is set at 10% (Law on Personal Income Tax of Republika Srpska 60/15). Annual property taxation is not regulated at the entity level in the FBiH either, as Cantons also declare property tax laws. In Republika Srpska, the owner of any property form pays 0.20% of property value annually.
3) Legislative framework
- Law on Property/Real Rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Official Gazette 66/13, 100/13.
- Reciprocity in the acquisition of real estate ownership rights with Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Law on Personal Income of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Official Gazette 10/2008, 9/2010, 44/2011, 7/2013, 65/2013.
- Law on Personal Income Tax of Republika Srpska, Official Gazette 60/15.
1) Can foreign nationals acquire real estate in Montenegro?
In Chapter XII of the Law on Property-Legal Relations of Montenegro, which deals with the rights of foreign persons, Article 412 states the following: “The provisions of this law shall also apply to foreign persons, unless otherwise provided by law or international agreement.” Foreign persons have the right to acquire property rights in Montenegro, both by purchase and inheritance.
1A - List of countries with which there is reciprocity and the possibility of acquisition
For Montenegro, this kind of list does not exist, as anyone can become the owner of real estate in Montenegro.
1B - Restrictions to foreign persons
Article 415 of the Law on Property-Legal Relations states restrictions on the acquisition of property rights for foreigners. Thus, foreign persons cannot acquire ownership to the following:
- Natural resources;
- Public good;
- Agricultural land;
- Forests and forest land;
- A cultural monument of exceptional and special significance;
- Immovable property in the land-border area at a depth of one kilometer and islands;
- Immovable property located in an area which, in order to protect the interests and security of the country, has been declared by law an area in which a foreign person cannot have the right of ownership.
Exceptionally, a foreign natural person may acquire the title to agricultural land, forests, and forest land of up to 5,000 square meters only if the subject of the alienation agreement (purchase, gift, exchange, etc.) is a residential building connected on that land. In addition, foreign persons are treated as domestic persons from point 1) to 6) of 415 Article if the subject of agreement is long-term lease, concession, and private-public partnership arrangements.
2) What taxes are associated with the sale of real estate?
The tax system in Montenegro is straightforward, and the taxes are among the lowest in Europe. When buying real estate in Montenegro, it is necessary to pay attention to the two types of taxes. The first is the real estate transfer tax and the second one is the real estate tax.
In the case of real estate transfer tax, the subject of taxation is real estate transfer, i.e., any acquisition of real estate ownership rights in Montenegro, and the tax rate is set at 3% of the total real estate value (see: The Law on Real Estate Transfer Tax of Montenegro). Real estate, in terms of this law, encompasses any kind of land and buildings. When acquiring newly constructed buildings on which value added tax (VAT) is paid, no real estate transfer tax is charged. Immediately after signing and certifying the sales contract and registering the new property owner in the Land Register, the buyer is obliged to submit a tax application to the competent tax authority within 15 days, and at the same time pay the tax liability.
Real estate tax is a tax form whose revenue belongs to the unit of local authority on whose territory the real estate is located, which prescribes the tax rate that the property owner pays once a year. The basis of real estate tax is its market value. Article 7 of Law on Real Estate Taxes prescribes that the liability for this tax arises on January 1 of the calendar year. For determining the occurrence of an obligation, notaries are obliged to submit a copy of the contract to the competent local administration body unit within ten days from the finalization of the sales contract.
According to Article 9 of the Law on Real Estate Taxes, the tax rate on real estate is proportional and ranges from 0.25% to 1.00% of the property’s market value. Exceptions to this are tax rates for the following property categories as given in Article 10:
- Secondary residential building, i.e., apartment: from 0.3% to 1.5%;
- For an illegal building:
- which resolves the housing need: from 0.3% to 1.5%
- which does not resolve the housing need: from 0.3% to 2%;
- Undeveloped construction land: from 0.3% to 5%.
There are also tax breaks categories. Article 12 prescribes that the tax on real estate, i.e., the apartment that is the residence or place of permanent residence of the taxpayer, is reduced by 20% for the taxpayer and by 10% for each member of his household, and up to a maximum of 50% of the tax liability. The tax rate could also be reduced for catering facilities, depending on the category, from 15% to 70%. The tax rate for real estate used for agricultural purposes could be reduced by up to 90% of the tax liability.
The owner of the real estate is obliged to submit a real estate tax application to the competent local administrative body for determining the tax amount, within 30 days from the day of acquiring the real estate. A decision is made by April 30 of the calendar year, and the taxpayer bears the obligation in two equal installments, the first of which is due on June 30, and the second on October 31.
3) Legislation regarding the acquisition of real estate
- Law on Property-Legal Relations, "Official Gazette of Montenegro", No. 19/09.
- Law on Real Estate Transfer Tax, "Official Gazette of Montenegro" No. 36/13.
- Law on Real Estate Tax, "Official Gazette of Montenegro" No. 25/19.
- Tariff of fees, Notary Chamber of Montenegro: Tariff No 1.
 As many countries have certain restrictions on real estate acquisition from non-citizens, authorities present lists of countries whose citizens are obliged to such a legal action, and it is mainly set as reciprocity rule; the 1A paragraph will refer to such a possible list. If it does not exist, the main statement about it will be put forward.
 Decree Law 14/2021, from February 12, 2021, Republic Diary No. 30/2021, Series I of 2021-02-12, 2021., https://dre.pt/dre/en/detail/decree-law/14-2021-157236756.
 Act No. 82-E/2014, Republic Diary No. 252/2015, Series I of 2014-12-31, 2014., https://dre.pt/dre/en/details/decree-law/82-e-2014-66022085
 Lebanon has 8 territorial-organizational units called muhafazah (province), which are divided into 26 caza (districts).
 The Law on Personal Income of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Official Gazette 10/2008, 9/2010, 44/2011, 7/2013, 65/2013.