There can be even 1 million wells or borehole in Hungary with an unclarified status that had been built without a permit in the last decades. As water becomes an even more valuable resource, countries should represent a responsible approach in their water management. This is why the Hungarian Government amended the law on water management by establishing a moratorium until the end of 2018, during which period well and borehole owners can obtain a permit from the competent authority without being fined. This exemption applies only to water sources that were set up before 1 January 2018.
As to the pending issue of the preferential VAT rate of 5% for new residential properties, finally the new tax laws approved by the Hungarian Parliament in November 2018 will remain to ensure the reduced VAT rate of 5% in case the date of completion of the residential properties is after 31 December 2019, provided that certain conditions are all met on 31 December 2019. These conditions are that a) the sale and purchase agreement has been submitted to the land registry office, b) the residential property can be considered as a structurally complete building (shell and core) and c) the seller of the residential makes a declaration to the tax authority on the compliance of the conditions included in points a) and b).
The finance ministers of the European Union Member States support the request of the Hungarian Government relating to the tax reduction and simplification for small enterprises. According to this decision, the limit for VAT exemption for small enterprises might be increased to HUF 12 million. This legislative amendment would affect more than 600,000 taxpayers. If the Hungarian Parliament adopts this change, this amount will be equal to the income limit of the taxpayers falling under the scope of the Act on the Fixed-Rate Tax of Low Tax-Bracket, which is also HUF 12 million. Due to this change, the companies with a revenue up to HUF 1 million per month could also apply for this type of tax liability.
According to some sources from the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office, a lifelong personal income tax exemption is planned to be applied to mothers with at least three children. With this tax cut, the Hungarian Government would intend to encourage families to have more children, and to increase the fertility rate in Hungary, which is one of the lowest in Europe. This measure could result in approximately HUF 100 billion (~EUR 285 million) loss of revenue for the Government budget, which is 5% of the total personal income tax revenue. On the other hand, it is difficult to estimate how this tax exemption will affect the fertility rate or the women re-entering the labour market.
The European Council adopted an amendment to the Posting of Workers Directive on 21 June 2018. The purpose of the revised Directive was to ensure fair competition for companies and better protection for workers who have been sent by their employers to perform services in another EU Member State on a temporary basis. Under the new regime, all of the host country’s remuneration rules should apply to posted workers, so that the posted workers could get equal pay for equal work in the same place.
From 1 January 2020, the reduced tax rate of 5% applicable to the flats to be constructed or existing in a multi-unit residential building with a total net floor space not exceeding 150 square meters and to the single-unit residential building with a total net floor space not exceeding 300 square meters will be terminated and the general VAT rate of 27% will be applicable for the sales of such residential properties.
According to an amendment to the Hungarian Corporate Income Tax Act approved in July 2018, taxpayers may be eligible for higher tax allowance in connection with an investment project to comply with energy efficiency targets, upon placing the project into operation, in the tax year following the year when the project was placed into operation - or in the same tax year at the taxpayer’s discretion - and in the following five tax years.
As Mr. István Nagy, Minister of Agriculture explained in September 2018, „the undivided joint ownership paralyses the Hungarian economy, and from a competitiveness point of view it is essential to be deleted”. The Hungarian agricultural land and forestry ownership conditions are not optimal, since the average plots are too small and they have many owners. This situation affects 3.5 million citizens and 1 million hectares.
The establishment and renovation of shopping centers will be governed by stricter rules according to a new regulation approved in the summer 2018. The so-called “Plázastop” (in English: Law on stopping malls) was introduced in 2012 for the purpose of preventing the spread of shopping malls. The regulation was originally planned to be in force until the end of 2014, however, it had been amended only in 2015 when the extension and establishment of shopping malls exceeding the floor area of 400 sqm was prohibited.
The Hungarian Minister of Finance announced on 7 August 2018 that the maximum number of third-country nationals who might be employed in Hungary with work permit shall be 55,000. Last year the limitation was 59,000, which means that the maximum number of third-country nationals has been reduced with 4,000. The decision may be surprising, since according to the statistics severe labour shortage is experienced in key sectors and there is a need for the employment of third-country nationals.
The legal practice analyser group of the Curia (i.e. the Hungarian supreme court) published a summarizing opinion on the judicial practice of the possession protection cases initiated before Hungarian notaries. Under the provisions of the Civil Code, the owner shall refrain from any conduct that would unnecessarily disturb others, especially his neighbours, or that would jeopardize the exercise of their rights. The possessor is entitled to request the termination of the disturbance from the notary public within one year.
The discounted 5% VAT rate introduced in 2016 will be abolished as of 1 January 2020, meaning that the 27% VAT rate will be applicable from that date, which can have significant effect on the market. In order to avoid a possible market chaos, the Hungarian Real Estate Development Roundtable Association (IFK) proposed introducing flexible, gradual VAT and stamp duty regulations that may result in increasing tax burden in the next 3-4 years. The new system could ensure that the supply and the sales of the new real estates are not reduced drastically from 2020.
The European Commission („EC”) has launched an infringement proceeding against Hungary in July 2018. According to the EC, the Hungarian law excludes certain cost types from the electricity and internal gas network charges, which are in infringement of the prescribed cost recovery plan set out in the Directive of Electricity and Internal Gas. In addition, the EC also stated that Hungary had accepted certain amendments in its electricity legislature that restricts the right of market operators to ask for a complete judicial review on the decision of network charges of the national regulatory body.
The Hungarian real estate and housing market is experiencing golden days. Although the market took a serious hit during the financial crisis in 2008, today enormous sums are again being invested in office buildings, shopping malls, hotels, residential areas, and retail. In order to map the underlying reasons behind the market’s boom, and to better understand how the country is dealing with the high demand for development lands and properties, CEE Legal Matters sat down with six Hungarian lawyers specialized in Real Estate & Construction and a Legal Counsel from Prologis, a Real Estate & Supply Chain Logistics company.