Adoption of the Law of Economic Recovery: What’s new for exchange control regulations ?
By Dr. Samir Abdelly
The Tunisian Parliament adopted on 12 July 2021 the Law of Economic Recovery. Among the different financial and economic measures designed to counter the harmful impacts of the Covid-19 crisis on the Tunisian economy, it is necessary to highlight some provisions particularly crucial for Tunisian and foreign investors, i.e. the measures related to exchange control policy and regulations: some measures relates to the regularization of exchange control infringements (I) while other provisionsauthorize the opening by Tunisian residents of foreign currency accounts in Tunisia (II) and other provisions extendthe status of non-resident (III).
I. Regularization of exchange control infringements
For once, it is possible for resident persons (physical persons) in Tunisia to regularize their exchange control infringements committed before the entry into force of the Law of Economic Recovery, excepted when such infringements relate to terrorism or money laundering in the meaning of the Law No.2015-26 of 7 August 2015 related to the fight against terrorism and money laundering.
The infringements referred to in the Law of Economic Recovery are:
– Default of declaration of assets hold abroad when required, default of repatriation of the proceeds and revenues arising from such assets and default of lodging such proceeds and revenues before an agreed intermediate and its cession in TND counterpart;
– Holding in Tunisia of foreign currencies in the form of foreign bank notes, default of lodging such foreign currencies before an agreed intermediateand its cession in TND counterpart;
The beneficiaries of such regularization can open bank accounts in foreign currency or convertible TND before an agreed intermediate to lodge the foreign currencies subject to regularization.
To benefit from such regularization, the concerned persons shall, prior to September 2022, repatriate the revenues, proceeds, and assets in foreign currency, lodge it in bank accounts opened in accordance of the above Law or assign it in TND counterpart (with sworn statement). They must also pay a contribution of full discharge of liabilities equal to:
– 15% of the counter value in TND of the purchase price for real estates located abroad and the value of underwriting or purchase of securities and deposits on condition to repatriate 25% of such deposits;
– 7% of the counter value in TND of foreign currency assets lodged in dedicated bank account, or 4% in case of cession against TND;
Such contributionof full discharge of liabilities is reduced of a half if paid before the end of November 2021, and releases its beneficiaries from the payment of the income tax and late penalties due over the foreign currency amounts subject to regularization, and from any administrative or legal suits for exchange control infringement subject to regularization.
The beneficiaries of the regularization are allowed to use their amounts lodged in dedicated bank accounts to invest in Tunisia and to cover their expenses in Tunisia or abroad, but they cannot make transfers from such bank accounts to fund foreign bank accounts.
II. Opening by Tunisian residents of foreign currency accounts in Tunisia
Any physical person residing in Tunisia will be entitled to hold or to open a bank account in foreign currency. Such bank account will be funded by foreign currencies of legal origin without any imputation on Central Bank of Tunisia (“CBT”) reserves.
To benefit from such right, a contribution of full discharge of liabilities equal to 10% of TND counter value of the lodged amounts must be paid. However, such foreign currency amounts will be capped annually – the cap to be determined by CBT – and can be used to fund other foreign currency or TND accounts in Tunisia or to cover expenses made abroad, with interdiction to fund foreign currency accounts abroad.
III. Extension of the benefits of non-resident status
Foreign persons residing in Tunisia and persons who lost their status of non-resident (i.e. Tunisians who definitely came back to Tunisia) can continue to benefit from the advantages of the non-resident status, especially the right to keep their assets abroad and the right to hold foreign currency bank accounts in Tunisia and abroad with a free right to use their assets in Tunisia and outside Tunisia.