Egypt payroll and tax overview.
Your guide to doing business in Egypt
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Doing Business in Egypt
Egypt lies on the south-eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and represents an intercontinental gateway between North Africa and the Middle East. Long considered a cradle of civilisation, Egypt has always played an important political and economic role in the region. A monarchy until the mid-20th century, Egypt emerged from its 1952 Revolution as a republic and, after a period of economic unrest in the second half of the century, introduced a range of liberal reforms, which stimulated domestic and international investment interest. While historically reliant on its agricultural industry, in the 20th century Egypt diversified its economy – with energy, and the oil and gas industries growing in importance. Tourism has also become a significant part of Egypt’s economic profile thanks to the country’s rich history and heritage. Today, Egypt is one of the largest economies in the Middle East, and the second largest in Africa. The country is a member-state of the United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and in 2018, was ranked 128 on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey.
Why invest in Egypt?
Investors will find numerous reasons to target Egypt, including:
- Economic strength: Egypt showed impressive resilience in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis – continuing its transition to a strong, stable and modern economy. The IMF predicts Egypt’s growth rate will reach 5.2% in 2018, and 5.5% in 2019 – with a possibility of 6% growth by 2023.
- Continental gateway: At the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East, businesses in Egypt benefit from access to diverse consumer markets of tens of millions of people. The Suez Canal is a vital connection between East and West – and facilitates around 8% of the world’s maritime shipping every year.
- Government incentives: Amongst a range of investment-friendly policies, Egypt’s government also offers a range of incentive schemes for foreigners, including General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI), reduced taxes and customs duties, and reduced land costs.
- Infrastructure: World class infrastructures are supporting Egypt’s economic progress. Mobile phone coverage in Egypt is almost 100% of inhabited land, while broadband is highly accessible in the country’s urban centres. Egypt is served by a network of 15 seaports, 20 airports, over 9,000km of railway, and over 100,000km of road.
- Competitive tax: Egypt’s tax system has been overhauled as part of financial reforms. The corporate tax rate is set at 22.5% (40.55% for oil exploration companies), while its tax authority has simplified both the tax code and the audit system.
Foreign Direct Investment in Egypt
Egypt is one of the major Oil and Gas producers, and there remains a significant need for investment in the power infrastructure. Egypt hosts a number of vast trading sectors, including: Construction, Architectural and Engineering Services, Healthcare, Telecommunications, Water and Wastewater, Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Renewable Energy, Education and Training Services, Electric Power Generation, Port and Shipbuilding Equipment, Consumer Goods and Safety and Security Equipment. Meanwhile, consumer goods provide the highest profit margins.
Political violence and uncertainty have taken a heavy toll over recent years, but modern Egyptian society has proven resilient. Foreign firms, though wary, have not abandoned the country.
Egypt’s government welcomes foreign investment and has various tax breaks to encourage foreign investment in the country.
Registering a Company and Establishing an Entity in Egypt
A company is required to have a legal entity established in Egypt in order to process payroll.
For integrating a company under the Investment Law in Egypt the Investor has to complete incorporation, at GAFI (General Authority for Investment and Free Zones). The GAFI is a one-stop Business Services Centre. All business-related Egyptian Government agencies are now located under one roof. GAFI is empowered to negotiate and sign contracts, and apply for licenses and approvals on behalf of all parties.
Foreigners may establish or acquire Egyptian companies.
Procedures for Establishing Companies in Egypt
The contract for establishing the company is submitted provided this is in compliance with the fields stipulated in Investment Law in Egypt.
The draft contract should enclose the following:
- Data form for the company, including purpose, capital, Investment costs, and statement of partners, location, and expected labour.
- Certificate determining viability of company name, issued from the Commercial Register of Investment (at Ministry of Economy & Foreign Trade).
- A Bank Deposit Certificate with not less than 25% of the capital of joint-stock companies and 100% of the capital of companies with limited liabilities.
The contract is assessed and authorised within 24 hours from the date of application. It is mandatory to legalize the signature of the lawyer who prepared the contract from the Bar Association in Cairo. After legalizing, it is submitted to the Authority in order to issue a licensed decree with the establishment of the company within 24 hours from submitting the completed contract.
The applicant receives an official copy of the decree of the Authority with the license to establish the company, enclosing an official copy of the contract and a letter to the competent commercial register office. The investor should provide the Authority with a copy of the commercial register of the company after its registration.
Business Banking in Egypt
Banking hours are 8.30am to 2:00pm (Sunday to Thursday) in the major towns and cities, with smaller towns and villages operating a more varied timetable. To open a bank account in Egypt, the Employee will need supporting official documentation, such as a Passport, Work Visa and Residence Certificate, Letter from home bank and some recent bank statements and passport-size photograph to verify identity.
Working Days and Working Hours in Egypt
A full workweek is generally considered to be five 8-hour workdays in Egypt, from Sunday through Thursday (to a maximum of six full days, which would generally add Saturday as the sixth).
Basic Facts about Egypt
Egypt is situated at the continental junction of Asia and Africa, and is a regional gateway between North Africa and the Middle East. Civilization in the territory, which became Egypt stretches back to prehistory, and saw the rise of a prolific empire, and the creation of architectural wonders such as the Sphinx and the Pyramids. Egypt was assimilated by various world powers over millennia – and was most recently ruled by Britain and the Ottoman Empire. Gaining its independence in 1922, Egypt gradually became a regional power – although it is still considered to be a ‘middle power’ on the world stage. Egypt’s climate is predominantly hot and dry, and much of the country is covered in desert terrain. The location of a range of ancient landmarks, and stretches of beautiful coastline, Egypt has become an incredibly popular tourist destination for visitors from across Europe and the world.
Full name: Arab Republic of Egypt
Population: 99.38 million (UN, 2018)
Capital: Cairo Major
Language: Arabic Major
Religion: Muslin followed by Christianity (8% to 10%)
Monetary Unit: “Livres Egyptiennes” (Egyptian Pound) 1 Egyptian Pound (EGP) = 100 piastres
Main exports: Crude Petroleum, Petroleum Gas, Refined Petroleum, Gold and Nitrogenous
Internet domain: .eg
International dialling code: +20
Good morning صباح الخير
Good evening مساء الخير.
Do you speak English? هل تتحدث الإنجليزية؟
Good bye وداعا
Thank you شكرا
See you later اشوفك بعدين
Dates are usually written in the day, month and year sequence. For example, 1st July 2017 or 1/7/17.
Income Tax & Social Security in Egypt
The Tax Year in Egypt is 1st January to 31st December.
It is the Employer’s responsibility to file quarterly tax returns. The Employer has 1 month after the end of each quarter to file the returns. Additionally, the Employer is required to file annual salary tax reconciliation outlining salaries paid to each Employee, deductions, exemptions, tax due, and the net salary paid to each Employee.
The penalty of 1% per month is added for the late submission and payment of Tax and Social Security Contributions.
Income Tax in Egypt
Residents and Non-Residents
All Employers are required to calculate the Salary and Tax on the monthly basis, which need to be remitted to the relevant tax offices within the first 15 days of the following month.
An Employee on a Temporary Residence Permit or no citizenship status will be required to file a Tax Return on the 1st of January each year. Additionally the Employer is required to file a quarterly tax return.
The Employer has one month after the end of each quarter to file the quarterly tax returns. At the Year-End the Employer is required to prepare an annual reconciliation of the salary tax to determine whether there are any disparities and to remit such tax disparities, if any, to the competent Tax Office within January of the following year.
Penalties are obligatory in the case of not complying with the due dates at 2% plus the discount rate declared by the Central Bank of Egypt (discount rate currently is 11% approximately).
Social Security in Egypt
The Egyptian constitution specifies that the state must insure Social and Health Security Services and Retirement, Unemployment and Old Age Pensions for all Citizens.
Employees benefit from the social security system in Egypt which provides insurance for all workers, whether they are subject to the Labour Law, state or public sector Employees. The legislator did not make any distinction between workers in the government sector and workers in the non-government sector.
The Social Security System shall include the following:
- Old Age, Disability and Death Insurance
- Occupational Accidents Insurance
- Sickness Insurance
- Unemployment Insurance
- Social Care for Pensioners
The current Public Program in Egypt covers approximately 80% of Employees, which is the highest among the developing nations. Contributions are based on 2 components:
- Base earnings, or earnings up to 1,012.5 Egyptian pounds a month
- Variable earnings or earnings exceeding 1,590 Egyptian pounds a month
Reporting Tax in Egypt
Monthly contributions should be made to the Tax Authority within 15 days of the following month.
Monthly contributions for social security payments should be made within 15 days of the following month
Annual salary reconciliation, including the Name of all Employees, Gross Income, and Tax calculation per year, has to be submitted before end of January of the following year
Key Legislative Authorities
- Investment Authority, Salah sales, Cairo.
- Tax authority, 5 Hussien Hegazy Street, Cairo.
- Social Insurance Authority, 5 Lazoghly Sq Monera, Cairo.
New Employees in Egypt
In Egypt, the Payroll and Registrations of a new employee are the responsibility of employer. All new employees have to be registered with the local authorities within 15 day of commencing the employment.
Documents required for setting up a New Start include:
- Employment Contract
- Personal Id
- Education Certificates
- Form (1) for Social Insurance.
- Birth Certificate
- Valid Passport
- Work Permit
Leavers in Egypt
Payment for leavers is made in the Employee’s last payslip. An Employee’s final payment must be remunerated by the end of the month and Social Security must be notified of the termination of employment contract.
Payroll in Egypt
Generally income tax is withheld at source by employers in Egypt – and remitted to the tax authority within 15 days of the end of the payment month. Employers must also withhold social security contributions from employee salaries, and remit those amounts to the Social Insurance Organisation. Employers with global employee populations should note that residency status is relevant to tax payments in Egypt: resident employees are taxed on income earned within Egypt and on a worldwide basis, while non-residents are charged only on tax earned within Egypt.
Tax in Egypt is charged at the following rates:
Up to EGP 6,500 – 0%
EGP 6,501 – 30,000 – 10%
EGP 30,001 – 45,000 – 5%
EGP 45,001 – 20,000 – 20%
Over EGP 20,000 – 25%
Social security in Egypt includes provisions for retirement, disability, injury and death, and unemployment. Social security contributions are charged at different rates depending on the type of insurance scheme:
Basic insurance: 26% for employers, 14% for employees
Variable insurance: 24% for employer, 11% for employees
Employees may be provided with online payslips in Egypt, and payroll reports must be kept for a minimum of 5 years. In order to achieve compliance with Egypt’s tax and payroll regulations, foreign businesses may wish to use a global payroll service provider. Using a payroll provider is a way to achieve regulatory compliance quickly, and ensure pay is delivered efficiently to a global employee population.
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Reforming Egypt’s social security system: A vision for social solidarity
Egypt is looking to reform its social security system by pursuing the objectives of strengthening social solidarity, ensuring financial sustainability, improving redistribution and providing better social protection for the majority of the population.
With legislation passed in 2010 that is to be implemented fully by 2012, the Egyptian social security system is engaged in an important process of reform. Despite the significance of the new legislation, implementing the reforms presents a particular set of challenges, and the country’s current uncertain political and economic situation may yet impact the scope, sequencing and timing of the reforms.
Egypt’s social security system covers around 25 million members and is administered by the National Organization for Social Insurance (NOSI) through two separate funds – one covers government workers (civil servants, armed forces, police force, etc.) and the other workers in the public and private enterprises, some self-employed, casual workers and Egyptians working abroad. At present, the country’s social security system, like that of many countries, is confronted by a number of challenges. These challenges stem from external factors as well as the current design of the social security system:
- Increases in life expectancy are contributing to the rising cost of a system that is already deemed expensive in comparison to other countries in the region – a total contribution rate equal to 40 per cent of an employee’s covered salary plus a government contribution of 1 per cent and a guarantee to finance any actuarial deficit. The estimated cost to the government of financing the actuarial deficit alone is expected to reach around 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2027.
- Large sectors of the population have limited or no coverage – the informal sector is currently estimated to be around 40 per cent of the labour force – and benefits for those who are covered are considered inadequate and have failed to keep pace with inflation.
- The design of the defined benefit social insurance system creates a number of adverse incentives. The maximum monthly earnings for contribution purposes are capped at EGP 1,750 for the financial year 2010/2011. Benefits are calculated according to the salary in the five years preceding retirement for workers in the private sector, or the two years preceding retirement for civil servants and public-sector employees. The final salary scheme creates an incentive for workers in the private sector to under-report income and minimise contributions until shortly before retirement when employers start to report higher salaries. This occurs because there is no link in the final salary system between contributions and benefits.
Seeking solutions to the systems’ high costs and inadequate benefits and coverage
In 2005, having recognized these growing financial and other challenges, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) took on the responsibility for the supervision of the social insurance system.
The MOF and the NOSI, working closely with international organizations such as the International Labour Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, reviewed the system in the light of other countries’ experiences, and developed a reform proposal that took into account Egypt’s particular socio-economic conditions. The reform proposal included both parametric and systemic reforms.
A vigorous national debate was initiated involving all major stakeholders, such as the trade unions, employers’ federations, the federation of chambers of commerce and major Egyptian political parties. The draft Bill was discussed extensively in the Shura Council and the People’s Assembly before the final approval of the reform proposal. Owing to the comprehensive and innovative nature of the reform, these discussions resulted in significant modifications before the law was passed by the parliament in June 2010.
Developing a new approach and philosophy
The new law (Law No. 135 of 2010), which is scheduled to come into force fully in January 2012, seeks to build a system founded on the principle of reinforcing solidarity. With an emphasis on improved compliance, an aim is to encourage individual savings. The new law looks also to achieve a more equitable distribution of income for individuals who are forced through circumstances that are often beyond their control (e.g. unemployment or military service) to withdraw from the labour market for a period of time. Its provisions aim to overcome the problems and challenges facing the old system by improving benefits, encouraging compliance, reducing costs, and better targeting the government’s contribution towards those on low incomes.
The new system also introduces “individual” accounts and “solidarity” accounts. The system will guarantee a minimum level of benefits for all risks, which will increase as higher levels of contributions are made to the individual accounts, as well as a minimum guaranteed rate of return on the investment of the funds held in individual accounts. The contribution rates and the cost of social insurance for those on low and medium incomes are to be reduced.
New role for the Public Treasury
Under the new system, the financial contribution of the Public Treasury will focus on reducing poverty among pensioners. A basic pension equal to 18 per cent of the net national average wage for all persons older than age 65 who do not have another source of income will be provided. Since 1 July 2010, the Public Treasury is meeting the cost of increasing the value of low pension payments, which has already benefited 48 per cent of all pensioners. These elements aim to reduce poverty among pensioners and their survivors.
The Public Treasury will also guarantee the regular adjustment of pensions in line with the rate of inflation on the condition that the inflation rate is above 8 per cent, and will underwrite any shortfall in the returns on the investment of social insurance funds, which are intended to determine the value of the annuity on retirement.
In addition, the Public Treasury provides incentives for informal-sector workers to join the new system and safeguard individuals’ retirement pension rights in case of death, disability and work injury.
Achieving a more equitable distribution of income
The new law establishes two measures to achieve a more equitable distribution of income. The contribution rate is reduced while the cap on pensionable income is removed so that higher-income earners and their employers will have to pay contributions on the entire salary.
The new contribution rate for insured workers under the new system is 11 per cent of earnings compared with 14 per cent in the current system. Persons earning less than around EGP 3,000 a month will pay lower contributions than under the current system while those earning above that cut-off point will pay more. For example, the contributions for an employee earning EGP 10,000 a month will increase substantially from EGP 218 to EGP 1,100 under the new system, while their employer’s contribution will rise from EGP 437 to EGP 1,950. However, an employee earning EGP 1,000 a month will see a reduction in the monthly social insurance payment from the current EGP 125 to EGP 110 a month, on average. Table 1 details the contribution rates under the current and new systems.
The NOSI is aiming to develop a link with the national tax authority to ensure that social security contributions will be deducted and taxes paid at the same time and be based on the same amount of reported earnings. In addition, NOSI staff will have legal authority to detect and investigate cases of contribution evasion while the penalties for contribution evasion will increase substantially to EGP 20,000 (USD 3,490) with a custodial sentence of one year in prison. The new pension system based on individual accounts aims to discourage contribution evasion and create a direct link between benefits and contributions whilst maintaining the traditional social insurance principle of solidarity.
Addressing the demographic challenge
To help tackle the current and future financial challenges posed by a high dependency ratio and increasing life expectancy, the retirement age will increase gradually from age 60 to age 65 for all employees over the period 2012 to 2027. The new system determines the value of the old-age pension according to the annuity factor at the time of retirement, which allows for future improvements in life expectancy.
Strengthening social solidarity
The new system introduces two solidarity accounts: one for old-age, disability and survivor benefits, and the other for unemployment benefits. A defined portion of each individual’s contributions will be paid into the solidarity accounts.
The remainder of the individual’s contributions will be deposited in the individual’s two accounts (old-age, disability and survivors; unemployment insurance) from which benefits to that individual will be paid. Once these funds are exhausted, payments may be received from the solidarity accounts, according to the system rules. The total amount of benefits paid to beneficiaries from each solidarity account will be capped at a multiple of the net national average wage.
A Pensioners’ Social Welfare Fund is also to be established to support different activities and services to old-age, disability and other pensioners. For example, it will create welfare places for pensioners (in care homes for the elderly and day care centres), will cover medical services as well as contribute to the cost of major medical surgery undertaken outside of Egypt for pensioners, and provide emergency assistance as required.
The Pensioners’ Social Welfare Fund is financed through pensioners’ flat rate contributions (that vary according to the amount of the pension payment), and 0.15 per cent of the returns on invested funds plus income equal to a third of the value of collected fines. The Public Treasury will also contribute to the Fund.
Encouraging individual savings
It is anticipated that the introduction of individual accounts that links future benefits to the value of contributions made (additional voluntary contributions to enable higher benefits are to be permitted) will encourage workers to save more. The expectation is that these measures will increase the domestic savings rate by 18 per cent, and the professional and productive investment of such funds will help achieve an estimated economic growth rate of more than 7 per cent.
Extending coverage to informal-sector workers
Bringing workers from the informal sector, which represents 40 per cent of the labour force, into the social security system is a major aim of the new system. Under the new system, the government will contribute an amount equivalent to 25 per cent of the contributions made by informal-sector seasonal workers and farmers to provide a positive incentive for such individuals to contribute and, consequently, to help reduce poverty in the event of the worker’s death or disability.
Introducing a new Unemployment Insurance mechanism
Under the new system unemployment benefits will be offered for up to 12 months, according to the number of months of contributions paid prior to unemployment. The minimum contribution period of 12 months allows a 6-month period of benefit payment and each additional contributory year will give the right to an additional month of unemployment benefit. Benefits will be paid from the eighth day of unemployment at a rate of 65 per cent of the insured’s average net wage in the 12 months prior to unemployment, the rate reducing by 3 per cent each month.
Unemployment insurance benefits will be paid from the insured’s unemployment insurance individual account first. In the event that the balance in the individual account is not sufficient, the benefit will be paid from the unemployment solidarity account. Any balance remaining in the unemployment insurance individual account at retirement can be used to increase the value of the retirement pension or can be received as a lump sum.
Ensuring efficient asset management
Under the current system, the social insurance fund, which has a value of about EGP 450 billion (equivalent to more then USD 75 billion), is invested largely in low-yield government instruments. The main aim of the new system is to diversify the portfolio in which the funds are invested.
An investment board of directors, comprising experts from the private and government sectors, is to be appointed when the new law comes into force in January 2012. The board will be responsible for setting up and implementing a strategy for investing around 35 to 45 per cent of the assets of the fund in non-government instruments. The remainder will continue to be directed toward Treasury bills and bonds and other traditional government investments and to pay off the liabilities of the old system.
The new law stipulates that around 40 per cent of the funds received annually from the new system will be invested in a diversified portfolio including private equity, real estate, land and corporate bonds, leading to the possibility of higher returns, but also potentially higher risks. It is expected that the rate of return on investments in the long-term will range from 6 per cent to 10 per cent, with an average of 8 per cent.
Challenges in implementing the new system
Although the reforms underwent extensive discussion and modification before the final provisions were passed, the implementation of the new system nevertheless presents major challenges.
Coverage under the current system will continue for any individual that joined the old system before 31 December 2011, and who chooses to stay in the current system or participate in both. Although there will be an option to switch to the new system, it is expected that the current system will continue to operate for around 75 years.
These factors alone create considerable challenges, but it may be further complicated by the uncertain political and economic situation in Egypt that may have an impact on the planned reforms, either in their scope or the timetable for implementation. Whether or not the new envisaged system can be implemented smoothly remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that the objectives of the reform are intended to strengthen social solidarity, ensure the financial sustainability of the system, improve redistribution and provide better social protection for the majority of the population.
Ms Mervat Abd es Salem Sabreen, Senior Economic Researcher, Ministry of Finance, Egypt.
Dr Maait, Deputy Minister of Finance, Egypt.
The authors are grateful to Ms Sara Saleh, Actuarial Analyst, Ministry of Finance, Egypt for support in preparing this article.