Feel free to contact us:(+48) 22 113 14 51

650 million PLN of "surcharges” in withholding tax audits

The Ministry of Finance data for Dziennik Gazeta Prawna confirms that audits in the area of withholding tax (WHT) are being treated as a priority.
Łukasz Kaza
TAX Assistant
Łukasz Kempa
Head of Tax Advisory, Tax Advisor

According to the published data, last year, customs and tax offices completed 202 audits in the area of withholding tax, while surcharges exceeded 650 million PLN. The data indicates that the average audit resulted in an additional surcharge of around 3.2 million PLN.

Two years earlier (in 2021), the number of audits amounted to 86, with surcharges totaling 59 million PLN. Thus, the average audit resulted in an additional surcharge of about 684 thousand PLN.

In 2022, the number of audits increased to 145, and the total surcharges exceeded 385 million PLN. The reason for this increase was the introduction of pay and refund mechanism regulations.


WHT - due diligence

Settlement of withholding tax involves, among other things, broadly defined 'due diligence' requirements.

When verifying conditions for applying the preferential (reduced) WHT rate, exemption or non-collection, the payer is obliged to exercise due diligence, which was introduced in 2019. The due diligence requirements have not been clearly explained by the legislator, resulting in frequent disputes with the tax authorities concerning this topic.

Failure to perform due diligence is subject to a high degree of risk. It may result in a penalty of 10% of the gross amount of receivables paid. If the amount of receivables exceeds 15 million PLN, this rate may be doubled.


When assessing due diligence, the nature and scale of the business is taken into account. The status of the so-called beneficial owner is also plays a major role.

Withholding tax - pay and refund mechanism

The pay and refund mechanism is another challenge that entrepreneurs dealing with withholding tax must face. In practice, this means that the payer is obliged to withhold withholding tax from the surplus amount exceeding 2 million PLN at the basic rate and pay it to the account of the relevant tax office. Only in the next step can the taxpayer (or the payer - if they bear the economic burden of the tax) apply for its refund.

To apply for such a refund, the payer or taxpayer must submit appropriate applications and attachments, such as:

  • Tax residency certificate.
  • Transfer confirmation relating to payments subject to withholding tax.
  • Declaration by the foreign counterparty that the conditions for exemption are met.
  • Evidence of the foreign counterparty's actual economic activity to which the payments relate to - in practice, the most demanding element and strictly assessed by the tax authorities.

Should you be interested in the topic of withholding tax, and its impact on your business, please do not hesitate to contact us. We also encourage you to read more on our website: https://www.krgroup.eu/services/tax-advisory/withholding-tax/

The Ministry of Finance will not relent: tax explanations project

In the autumn of 2023, the Ministry of Finance (MF) published tax explanations for provisions concerning withholding tax (WHT). The goal was to clarify the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Corporate Income Tax Act and the Personal Income Tax Act, in the wording applicable from January 1, 2022.

In the tax explanations project, the MF took a very rigorous approach to the criteria of the actual beneficial owner, a term defined in Article 4a point 29 of the Corporate Income Tax Act and Article 5a point 33d of the Personal Income Tax Act.

  • Beneficial owner - who is it? In order to be considered a beneficial owner, an entity must fulfil all of the following conditions: receive the receivable for their own benefit, including their own decision on the use to which the receivable is to be put, and bears the economic risk of losing the receivable or part of it.
  • Is not an intermediary, representative, fiduciary or other entity obliged to transfer all or part of the receivable to another entity - the draft explanatory notes make extensive reference to this requirement, indicating when the recipient is merely an "income administrator" and not entitled to a preference.
  • Has genuine economic activity in the country of establishment if the receivables are received in connection with an economic activity, whereby the nature and scale of the activity carried out by the entity in respect of the receivable received will be taken into account in assessing whether the entity has genuine economic activity.

In this project, reference was made to the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in case C-115/16, in which the court held that it is not the role of the tax authority to identify the actual owner when the true interest recipients are unknown. It can therefore be recognized that tax authorities are not, in principle, obligated to search for the beneficial owner other than the payment recipient - identifying them is in the taxpayer's interest, and it is up to them to demonstrate that a particular entity may be treated as such.

Look-through approach

The concept of the look-through approach (LTA) may be the last resort for groups where receivables are paid to holding entities - both the explanatory project and practice show that they have significant difficulties in defending preferences in the area of WHT. Regarding holdings, the project indicated that for the LTA to apply:

  • the holding company must transfer the receivable " unchanged" (so it cannot, for example, finance a share purchase loan with dividends).
  • a given double tax treaty between Poland and the holding state must provide for a tax rate that is the same or lower than the rate between the holding state and the country of the beneficial owner.

Should you need more details on the requirements described in the draft tax explanations, we refer you to our publication "Draft WHT explanations - Withholding tax" located under the following link: https://www.krgroup.pl/uslugi/doradztwo-podatkowe/wht/projekt-objasnien-podatkowych/

Audits in 2024 becoming increasingly costly for taxpayers

Audits are capable of yielding results more quickly and efficiently through advanced data analysis and utilizing knowledge gained from individual audits in other cases, made possible by centralizing proceedings regarding withholding tax at the Tax Office in Lublin. As of March 15, 2024, the number of completed audits amounted to 37*. Therefore, according to tax advisors, the trend of intensifying audits in the area of withholding tax may gain momentum.

Due to the requirements of due diligence and the unfavorable stance of administrative courts towards meeting the criteria for tax exemption by recipients (especially holding entities), the tax authorities have adequate tools to impose additional surcharges.

The risk can be considered particularly elevated for entities disbursing:

  • receivables to the holding company
  • interest on intragroup loans
  • dividends and other amounts due to partnerships
  • receivables to entities from tax havens

It is worth inviting a tax advisor to remain ahead of the tax inspectors - statistics show that a visit from the latter is far more costly.

*Source: Withholding tax. More and more controls and surcharges - Dziennik Gazeta Prawna

Skrócony formularz EN
Order online advice

Pursuant to the Personal Data Protection Act of 29 August 1997 (Journal of Laws Dz.U. 2016 item 922, as amended), I consent to receive commercial and marketing information from KR Group sp. z o.o. sp. k. with its registered office at ul. Skaryszewska 7, 03-802 Warsaw, and to introduction into the database and processing by KR Group sp. z o.o. sp. k. of my personal data provided in this form. I also acknowledge that my consent is voluntary and that I have the right to review, correct or remove my data.