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Government and institution measures in response to COVID-19.

Government and institution measures in response to COVID-19.

Return to homepage  |  Last updated: 14 May, 2020

General Information

On 18 March 2020, the government presented economic measures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and among those measures are tax-related proposals. The Minister of Finance announced that the tax on retail sales would be deferred until the end of the year.

On 21 March 2020, the government submitted a preliminary Anti-Crisis Shield for consultation and on 25 March 2020, the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK’s) issued Anti-Crisis Shield proposals for consideration.

On 31 March 2020, the Polish Parliament adopted the package of legislative laws related to Anti-Crisis Shield, which was subsequently signed by the President. The majority of new regulations will enter into force from 1 April 2020

On 8 April 2020, the Polish Sejm adopted an additional package of legislative laws related to Anti-Crisis Shield for which the Polish Senate issued dozens of amendments of which nearly half was approved by the Polish Sejm on 17 April 2020.

Also on 8 April 2020 the Polish Government announced a new Anti-crises program called the Financial Shield which was subsequently approved by the parliament.

On 30 April 2020 the Polish Sejm adopted the Anti-Crisis Shield 3.0 - a new support program, which yet needs to be approved by the Senate.

Tax measures – Direct and Indirect

(e.g. payment deferrals, rate reductions…)

Click here to see a comprehensive summary of jurisdictional tax measures and government reliefs in response to COVID-19.

Economic stimulus measures

(e.g. loans, moratorium on debt repayments…)

Anti-Crisis Shield proposals issued by the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK’s) on 25 March 2020

  • The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (“UOKiK”) is actively combating the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Poland and proposes solutions that are intended to protect consumer interests and counter abusive practices on the market. The key proposed solutions relate to the following actions:
  • Proposed new price control tools imposing price and margin ceilings on certain products important for society and new accompanying sanctions:
    • up to PLN 5 million for violating the prohibition on applying prices or margins above the respective ceiling;
    • up to 10% of the annual turnover for repeated or large-scale infringements.
  • UOKiK also proposed amendments to the so-called “Crisis Act” – the Act of 2 March 2020 on extraordinary measures aimed at preventing and combating COVID-19:
    • Based on the proposed regulations, the Minister of Health in consultation with the Minister of Development and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development will be authorized to issue ordinances imposing maximum prices or maximum margins on wholesale and retail sales of goods and services that are critical for the protection of human health, safety or for household expenses.
    • According to the draft, using prices or margins above the ceiling will be punishable by fines in a range from PLN 5,000 to PLN 5,000,000.
    • Additionally, the UOKiK is to be authorized to impose penalties of up to 10% of the turnover in the preceding financial year on entrepreneurs who repeatedly infringe price and margin ceilings, do so with respect to various goods or services, or infringe them on a large scale.
    • Penalties for procedural infringements, such as refusing to provide the information requested by the UOKiK President, frustrating or hindering inspections, may amount up to 5% of the annual turnover but no more than PLN 50,000,000.
  • UOKiK also proposed a temporary reduction in the maximum level of non-interest costs on consumer loans; the amount of non-interest costs should not exceed 5% on loans with maturity of less than 30 days and 15% plus 6% for each year of the term for loans with maturity of more than 30 days.
  • The current draft does not include the working proposal made earlier by UOKiK that consumers should be permitted to suspend the performance of a consumer loan or mortgage loan, which would release consumers from the obligation to make payments under such loans, and no interest or other fees would be charged in respect of the suspension period.

Lease during the pandemic – special new legal solutions

  • Shopping malls and the entire retail sector are suffering huge losses due to COVID-19 pandemic. Since mid-March 2020, only some shops may operate in facilities above 2,000 square meters, including e.g. food, home-improvement and construction stores, and pharmacies. Catering and entertainment facilities have been closed also outside shopping malls.
  • The above are only a few extraordinary changes introduced in the laws regulating the rental market. The government’s bill of 25 March 2020 amending the Act on Extraordinary Measures for Preventing, Counteracting and Combating COVID-19, Other Infectious Diseases and Emergencies Caused by Them, and Certain Other Acts (the so-called ‘Shield’) provides for special regulations concerning:
    • Lease in shopping centers;
    • Lease of premises;
    • Lease of property from public resources.

Commercial lease in shopping malls

  • In accordance with the bill, in the period of the ban on operating in commercial facilities with a sales area of more than 2,000 square meters, mutual obligations of the parties under lease contracts concerning these facilities are ‘extinguished’.
  • This means that for the entire period of the operation ban (from 14 March 2020), tenants affected by this ban are not required to pay any rent or maintenance fees, and landlords are not required to make premises available to tenants. The exemption of tenants from the obligation to pay rent and service charges is non-refundable and applies to the entire amount of rent and service charges (100%), for the entire period of the ban on business operations.
  • Under the new regulations, irrelevant are the area of the leased premises, the amount of rent, the lifetime of the lease agreement or the status of the tenant.
  • As transpires from the bill (albeit not explicitly), the exempted from payment of rent are only those tenants, to whom the ban on activity applies (and not all tenants).
  • In order to take advantage of the exemption, the tenant should, within three months from the date of lifting the ban on business operations, submit to the landlord an offer to extend the lifetime of the agreement, on hitherto binding terms, for the duration of the ban, extended by six months. It seems that the legislator’s intention was to give tenants the opportunity to decide whether they choose to “terminate” their leases, but with an extension of 6 months (under the current rules), or whether they prefer to continue paying rent, but then without an obligation to extend the contract.
  • The exemption from rent does not apply to tenants operating in a) commercial premises with a sales area of less than 2,000 square meters, and b) other than commercial premises (e.g. office buildings). It seems that limiting the exemption only to tenants from the largest shopping malls may in practice mean that large chain tenants will become its biggest beneficiary.
  • The ‘Shield’ permits the parties to the lease agreement to apply provisions of the Polish Civil Code – this means the possibility of taking advantage of the provisions on force majeure or fundamental change of circumstances (the possibility of avoiding liquidated damages / indemnity, the possibility of demanding a change of contract conditions, the possibility of refraining from paying the rent).
  • The new regulations do not provide for any form of compensation or financial support dedicated to shopping malls deprived of rent, including in particular repayment holidays (most of the malls have been built thanks to a bank loans, which the malls have to repay regularly).

Regulations concerning all lease agreements – effective until 30 June 2020

  • Extension of lease agreements concluded for a fixed period, which would expire after the shield enters into force,
  • Prohibition to terminate tenant’s lease agreements or to increase the rent.

Leasing of property from public resources

Proposals concerning the lease of premises owned by the State Treasury or local government units include, among others:

  • a simplified procedure for cancelling or deferring rents, or enabling their payment in instalments,
  • a simplified procedure for individual withdrawal of rent claims,
  • the possibility for local government bodies (e.g. municipal councils) to adopt resolutions on the general grant of allowances, debt cancellation and waiver of debt recovery.

Additionally, the newly adopted Ani-Crisis Shield stipulated:

  • Industrial Development Agency (ARP) will obtain from the Polish government up to PLN 1.7 billion through transfer of newly issued treasury securities
  • The funds obtained by Industrial Development Agency will be primarily used to create a mechanism for refinancing lease contracts concluded by entrepreneurs, dedicated primarily to the transport sector and liquidity loans enabling support for the day-to-day operations of the companies with a 15-month grace period.
  • Availability of loans for micro-enterprises that do not employ employees. To submit for the loan relief, the micro-company will have to operate for 3 months from the date of the loan. The estimated total value of loans available will amount to approximately PLN 9.6 billion of which up to PLN 8.7 billion may be forgiven.
  • Reliefs in the repayment of the loans granted by BGK under the loan program „First Business - Startup Support”, including:
    • suspension of repayment of principal and interest installments for a period not longer than 6 months,
    • extension of the grace period by an additional period of up to 6 months,
    • extension of the repayment period by an additional period of up to 12 months,
    • reducing the interest rate on loans to 0% per annum for a period not exceeding 12 months.
  • The option of renegotiating the terms of the bank loans by all entrepreneurs, regardless of their size
  • Funds received by entrepreneurs in relations to preventing COVID-19 will be secured against enforcement (under civil proceedings, court bailiff or administrative enforcement).
  • Availability of government's grants will also be available to companies established between 1 February and 1 April this year.

On 8 April 2020 the Polish government announced the Financial Shield - a new support program under the Anti-Crisis Shield; respective legislative laws have been approved by the parliament.

The aim of the program is to protect the labor market and support financial liquidity of the companies during the crisis.

The Financial Shield consists of three basic components with a total value of PLN 100 billion (i.e. approx. 4.5% of the Polish GDP) under which, the following support will be provided depending on the size of entities:

  • PLN 25 billion support will go to micro-enterprises (i.e. companies employing from 1 to 9 employees with annual turnover or total assets less than EUR 2 million). Financing in the form of interest-free preferential loans supported by banks.
  • PLN 50 billion support for small and medium enterprises (i.e. companies with 10 to 250 employees and annual turnover less than EUR 50 million or total assets below EUR 43 million). Financing in the form of interest-free preferential loans supported by banks.
  • PLN 25 billion support for large enterprises (employing over 250 employees with turnover exceeding EUR 50 million or total assets above EUR 43 million). The financial support for large enterprises will be managed by the State owned Polish Development Fund (PFR) and provided in the form of:
    • loans or bonds for the period of 2 years (up to PLN 1 billion per entity)
    • preferential loans for the period of 3 years partially non-refundable (up to PLN 750 million per entity)
    • acquisitions of shares or stocks of underperforming entities on an arm's length basis or as part of public aid worth (up to PLN 1 billion per entity).
  • The financing may be granted to the micro, small, medium and large entities that:
    • were operating before 31 December 2019
    • recorded decrease in sales revenues of minimum 25%
    • settled taxes for the last 2 financial years in Poland (if applicable) and have active status of Polish tax residence (or the beneficiary is obliged to transfer his tax residence to the territory of Poland within 9 months of granting the loan)
    • are not under bankruptcy, liquidation or restructuring proceedings
    • as at 31 December 2019 or as at the date of financing, the payments of taxes and social security contributions by entrepreneur were not delayed.
  • Additional criteria to be taken into account while granting support to large enterprises are: lost ability to manufacture, provide services or the lack of components, services or resources in connection with COVID-19; no payments received for sales as a result of COVID-19 in excess of 25% of total receivable; no access to the capital market or credit limits in connection with new contracts due to disruptions in the functioning of the financial market; participation in Sector Programs organized by PFR.
  • Up to 75% of loans granted to lenders may be forgiven, if they maintain their operations and employment levels.

On 30 April 2020 the Polish Sejm adopted the Anti-Crisis Shield 3.0 -  a new support program under the Anti-Crisis Shield – that yet needs to be approved by the Senate.

The draft act is being considered by the Senate, which will meet again on this issue on May 12 this year. Senators are currently discussing the shape of solutions, and in the case of amendments proposed to the Act, they will be decided by the Sejm.

Below are selected changes adopted under Anti-Crises Shield 3.0 by the Sejm in respect of taxes, social security and other public charges:

  • Extending the catalog of entrepreneurs entitled to exemption from paying social contributions (ZUS) also to some self-employed persons whose revenues exceeded the threshold of 300% the average monthly salary.
    • allowing the exemption from paying social contributions to persons paying social contributions in a situation where their revenue was higher than 300% of the forecasted average monthly gross remuneration in the national economy in 2020, but their income from this activity was below PLN 7,000 in February 2020.
    • the exemption provided for in this regulation applies only for two months (i.e. April and May 2020), and not three, as in the case of entrepreneurs with revenues lower than three times the average salary
  • Extension of the catalog of persons entitled to a [parking] allowance - also for self-employed persons who conducted business activity before April 1, 2020 (so far: before February 1)
  • Expanding the group of micro-entrepreneurs entitled to receive the so-called "Micro loans" also for those who started their operations before April 1, 2020 (so far: before March 1)
  • Extension of the payment deadline and submission of a declaration on the amount of ‘solidarity levy’ to May 31, 2020 (on the same terms as the extension of the payment deadline and submission of the PIT declaration - based on the so-called "active regret" institution)
    • the Minister of Finance will also be able to refrain from charging interest for late payment from unpaid solidarity levy (the Minister will have to issue a regulation in this respect)
  • Introduction of a new public duty - an obligation to make payments to the Polish Film Institute (PISF) by entrepreneurs providing audio-visual media services on demand (VOD). The amount of the new duty payment is 1.5% of the revenue obtained from fees for the use of VOD portals in Poland.

Employment-related measures

(e.g. state compensation schemes, training…)

Special purpose Act on support for businesses affected by COVID-19 epidemic

One of the primary objectives of the Special purpose Act on support for companies due to COVID-19 epidemic relates to employment protection. The key measures implemented by the State in this respect enters into force from 1 April 2020 and comprise inter alia:

  • Subsidies for employee remuneration costs and social security contributions for the enterprises in the event of a decline in sales revenues due to COVID-19 epidemic. The enterprise will be eligible for subsidy if the decline in sales revenues will amount to:
    • not less than 15% - calculated as the ratio of total sales revenues in the following two months period after Jan 2020, to the total sales revenues from the corresponding 2 months of the previous year (i.e. 2019); or
    • not less than 25% - calculated as the ratio of total sales revenues in any given month in the period after Jan 2020 compared to the turnover from the previous month.
  • The subsidy may be granted due to:
    • economic downtime (i.e. when an employee does not work for reasons not related to the employee). The employer will receive a subsidy in the amount of 50% of minimum wage plus social security contributions up to three months period and will be obliged to pay a 50% of base remuneration to given employee (however not less than 100% minimum wage),
    • reduction of employee's working time by 20%, but not more than to half time. The salary of such an employee may be subsidized up to half of the salary, but no more than 40% of the average monthly salary from the previous quarter plus social security contributions up to three month period. The remuneration paid after the working time reduction may not be lower than the minimum wage.
  • Additional subsidies for employee remuneration costs and social security contributions for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises for up to 3 month period, in the event of a decline in total sales revenues in the following two months of 2020 compared to the total sales revenues from the corresponding 2 months of 2019, in the amount of:
    • 50% of minimum wage plus social security contributions per employee, if the decline in sales revenues amounted to 30%,
    • 70% of minimum wage plus social security contributions per employee, if the decline in sales revenues amounted to 50%,
    • 90% of minimum wage plus social security contributions per employee, if the decline in sales revenues amounted to 80%.
  • Exemption from social security contributions for up to 3 months period for owners of micro-enterprises (employing up to 9 people) established before Feb 2020 and self-employed people with income below three times the average wage, registered before Feb 2020.
  • Payment of a “work suspension benefit“ in the amount of approx. PLN 2,000 for employees working based on a civil law contracts and self-employed (if they were active before Feb 2020); in the case of self-employed persons, income in the month preceding the month of submitting the application for “work suspension benefit“ must fall by at least 15% compared to the previous month. The benefit is also granted to self-employed persons who suspended their activities after Jan 2020.
  • The employer affected by COVID-19 epidemic will be able to reduce the employee's daily uninterrupted rest time from the current 11 hours to 8 hours (with an obligation to provide an employee with equivalent rest within 8 weeks), and to reduce the weekly rest period from 35 to 32 hours.

On 8 April 2020, the Polish Sejm adopted an additional package of legislative laws related to Anti-Crisis Shield (so-called Shield 2.0) for which on 17 April 2020, Polish Sejm approved additional amendments proposed by the Polish Senate.

The key changes related to employment issues comprised:

  • Exemption of 50% from social security contributions for up to 3 months period for owners of enterprises employing from 10 to 49 people (previously granted to micro-enterprises only)
  • Social cooperatives and sole proprietorship will be exempt from the social security contributions regardless of theirs's number of employees or revenues, respectively
  • Payment of a “work suspension benefit“ may be granted up to three times (previously one-off support). Next payments may be granted in the months following first payment, provided that financial situation of the beneficiary has not improved.

Customs Measures

Customs audits

  • Suspension ex officio or on request:
    • Tax proceedings or inspections;
    • Customs inspections.

Suspension may also be introduced by the Minister of Finance in a regulation specifying the territorial scope of suspension, types of proceedings and inspections as well as the period for which suspension occurs. The basis in this case will be the period of validity of the epidemic threat or epidemic status and the effects caused by them.

The suspension period is not included in the dates of proceedings and inspections.

Duty relief

  • Exemption from customs duty and reduction of the VAT rate to 0% for delivery of:
    • Medical devices;
    • In-vitro diagnostic medical devices;
    • Laboratory glassware and laboratory apparatus;
    • Medicinal products and active substances;
    • Disinfectants;
    • Specialized diagnostic tests;
    • Personal protection equipment.
  • If they are intended for purposes related to combating SARS-CoV-2 virus and donated to:
    • Material Reserves Agency;
    • Central Base of Sanitary and Anti-Epidemic Reserves;
    • Entities performing medical activities entered in the relevant list.
  • It is also necessary to conclude a written agreement between the taxpayer and this entity, which will determine how the goods will be used
  • The reduced tax rate may be used for the delivery of goods made in the period from 30th January to 31st July 2020.

Export restrictions

  • Exportation of personal protective equipment outside the European Union requires a permit. This applies to items such as:
    • safety glasses and helmets,
    • mouth and nose protection equipment,
    • protective clothing.
  • Obligation to notify the Voivode no later than 36 hours before the intention to export or dispose outside the territory of the Republic of Poland of:
    • TYVEK suits,
    • masks type FFP2 / FFP3,
    • shoe covers (footwear)
  • Obligation to notify the Main Pharmaceutical Inspector of the intention to export products included in the list of medicinal products, foodstuffs for particular nutritional uses and medical devices threatened by the lack of availability on the territory of the Republic of Poland.

Customs simplifications

  • Possibility to use simplified declarations without prior authorization.
  • Facilitation with regard to temporary admission of goods to counter the effects of SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • Possibility to extend the limit for re-exporting the goods under temporary admission.
  • Possibility to extend the deadline for presenting the settlement of the special procedure.
  • Simplification of the rules for using the short form of the application for authorization (application for authorization based on the customs declaration).
  • Possibility of temporary storage of goods for longer than 90 days by obtaining a new permit for customs storage.
  • Possibility to use a paper copy or electronic version of the certificates of origin.

Main sources of information

Other measures and sources

Main sources of information

Coronavirus – extraordinary changes in court proceedings and the system of justice

  • The Ministry of Justice has issued recommendations restricting the activity of courts and announced introduction of extraordinary changes in the law regarding court proceedings, time limits defined by substantive law and the system of justice. The new solutions are a response to the coronavirus spread.

Announcement by the Ministry of Justice on emergency legislation for the system of justice of 19 March 2020.

The Ministry of Justice has presented assumptions for the draft amendments to the Act of 2 March 2020 on extraordinary measures for preventing, counteracting and combating COVID-19, other infectious diseases and emergencies caused by them. The draft amendments and the explanatory memorandum were submitted to the Ministry of Development, which coordinates works related to the amendment of the above-mentioned law.

Extraordinary changes in court proceedings and the system of justice – main assumptions

  • Suspension of all limitation periods defined by substantive and procedural law

Non-commencement or suspension of limitation periods:

  • Time limits provided for by the civil law, whose observance is necessary for the grant of legal protection in court;
  • Limitation periods for criminal offences and for execution of sentences for criminal offences, fiscal offences and petty offences, and in proceedings in petty offences cases;
  • Procedural and court time limits in court proceedings, including administrative court proceedings, enforcement proceedings, criminal proceedings, penal and fiscal proceedings, proceedings in petty offences cases, administrative and enforcement in administration cases, as well as time limits in other proceedings conducted under the act.
  • Support for commercial companies and cooperatives further amendments are aimed at enabling the governing bodies of cooperatives, housing communities and commercial law companies whose members may be quarantined. The amendments introduce the possibility to vote in writing or by means of distance communication.
  • Official list of urgent cases the amendment specifies in detail the type of cases which are considered urgent and in which, exceptionally, hearings may be held. These include cases involving minors, domestic violence or pre-trial detention
  • Support for the courts under the amendment there is a possibility of delegating the performance of urgent tasks to another court and simplifying the procedures for delegating judges to another court.
  • More penalties executable in electronic surveillance the draft also provides for amendments to the executive penal code, which significantly extends the use of the electronic surveillance system (ess). It is proposed to increase the upper limit of sentences or the amount of imprisonment, which determines the possibility of serving a prison sentence in the electronic surveillance system to 18 months (currently ESS is used for sentences of up to one-year imprisonment).

Announcement of the Ministry of Justice of 12 March 2020 on the operation of courts

  • On 12 March 2020 the Ministry of Justice issued an announcement on the organisation of the work of courts: it is recommended that all hearings and public hearings scheduled from 13 to 31 March 2020 be postponed, except for the most urgent cases.
  • Practical implementation of the recommendations is subject to a decision of the court president. According to publicly available information, the courts generally follow the Ministry’s recommendations: on websites of most courts it was announced that all hearings and public hearings, except for the most urgent cases, were cancelled. In many courts, the possibility to use the reading room of court files has also been limited and limitations have been introduced in the operation of the Customer Service Office and the administration office.
  • Apart from the above limitations, courts operate without changes, thus, it is possible to file claims, exchange pleadings, etc. The change in the organization of courts’ work does not apply to proceedings in which no hearings are held, including registration and perpetual usufruct proceedings. Administrative proceedings also remain outside the scope of changes.

List of urgent cases

  • The Ministry of Justice has provided the presidents of the courts with the so-called list of urgent cases, which are recommended to be tried in the emergency mode and excluded from the orders concerning the cancellation of hearings and meetings with the parties. These include, among others, cases related to the following:
    • Application and extension of provisional detention;
    • Imposition of a protective measure in the form of a stay in a secure hospital;
    • Applicability of the statute of limitations with reference to the punishability of the act or the execution of a sentence;
    • Execution of a european arrest warrant;
    • Hearing a person for the purpose of securing evidence, or in a situation where there is a threat that it will not be possible to hear a certain person at a trial.
  • In commercial matters, in principle, all hearings are to be cancelled.
  • The presidents of the courts may decide on other cases requiring urgent consideration.

What does cancellation of hearings mean in practice?

  • The principle of open proceedings and the related obligation to conduct a hearing is one of the main principles of Polish procedural law. Most cases, including virtually all cases of greater importance, are obligatorily heard at a trial.
  • The inability to hold hearings means that all civil, criminal and administrative cases in which the hearing is mandatory, i.e., the vast majority of cases, will be heard late. The court will be able to issue ordinances or orders in closed session in these cases, and the parties will be able to exchange pleadings, but it will not be possible to complete the proceedings – until the hearing is carried out and closed.
  • According to public statements of the court presidents, hearings that are currently being cancelled will not be considered first in the future, but will be moved to the end of the queue – they will probably take place no sooner than a few months from the resumption of normal court work.

Other procedural effects brought about by the epidemic

  • In the event where the above changes to the law announced by the Ministry of Justice on 19 March 2020 enter into force, all limitation periods and procedural dates will be suspended by virtue of law.
  • In addition, there are arguments for considering that the state of epidemic emergency is a force majeure event, which entails the following effects:
    • Suspension of limitation period for claims due to force majeure
    • The limitation period for claims does not start and the commenced limitation period is suspended when, due to force majeure event (epidemic), the entitled person cannot enforce such claims in the court (article 121 sec. 4 of the civil code).
    • Permissibility of applying for reinstatement of the procedural time limit
  • If a party to court proceedings without its fault (e.g. due to illness, quarantine, inability to return to the country, limited functioning of the post office, etc.) did not complete the procedural activity within the time limit, they may apply for reinstatement of a missed deadline. The application for reinstatement of the deadline must be submitted within 7 days of the cessation of the obstacle that caused the default, and simultaneously a procedural activity must be carried out.

Main sources of information

Measures to ease the lockdown

  • Schools and universities in Poland are closed. Lessons and classes are not held on the premises, but via the Internet using e-learning platforms. Remote lessons are carried out according to the specified rules until May 24, 2020 For stores with a service area of less than 2000 m2: 4 people for one cash desk. So, if there are 2 cash desks in a store, there can be 8 customers in the store at once. For stores with a service area larger than 2000 m2: 1 person per 15 m2 of the area. Valid: from 20 April until rescinded.

Main sources of information

  • The bill adopted by the lower chamber of the Polish parliament on March 28, 2020
  • Regulation of the Minister of Finance of March 25, 2020

Contact us

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