New Rules for SEM Companies in Panama
Friday, July 27, 2018
Having a minimum of five full-time permanent employees is one of the requirements that companies must meet in order to obtain a Regional Offices of Multinational Corporations license, if a bill from the Varela administration succeeds.
The bill presented by the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (Mici) to the National Assembly contemplates, among other things, the new conditions that must be met by companies seeking to obtain a license as Regional Offices of Multinational Corporations (SEM by their initials in Spanish). In addition, it details a proposed law reform, under which companies must generate annual operating expenses in the country of at least $500,000.

From a statement issued by the National Assembly:

A bill, whose content base is to make more competitive the special regime for the establishment and operation of Regional Offices of Multinational Corporations (SEM), was presented the Minister of Commerce and Industries (MICI), Augusto Arosemena, in the plenary session.

The head of the MICI estimated that this regulation could increase foreign investment and consolidate Panama's logistics service platform and, at the same time would enable updates to be made which are required by international standards with the introduction of new requirements for obtaining an SEM license.

Read full article (in Spanish).

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More SEM Companies Arrive in Panama
November 2019
So far this year, 17 new company licenses have been approved in the country under the Multinational Companies Headquarters regime, a figure that is higher than the 7 that were reported throughout 2018.
In addition to the 17 companies that already obtained their licenses in 2019, there are 7 other companies that are in the phase of evaluation by the Commission of Headquarters of Multinational Enterprises of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MICI).
Decrease in SEM Companies' Arrival in Panama
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Modifications made to the law regulating the SEM regime in the country, would have been the reason for reporting during last year the establishment of only seven new companies of this type.
Among the reforms to the special regime for the establishment and operation of Sedes de Empresas Multinacionales (SEM) made in 2018, it is worth highlighting that companies must have a minimum number of full-time permanent employees, and in addition, a tax rate of 5% was imposed on the net taxable income derived from the services rendered.
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Within the conditions to operate under the Multinational Enterprise Headquarters regime in Panama, the requirement for a worldwide number of employees has been changed to instead include a requirement to have a presence in more than 40 countries.
From a statement issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry:
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At the close of the first semester 13 new licenses will have been approved giving foreign companies the ability to operate under the Site of Multinational Corporation regime.
The companies that requested permission to set up in the country under the Site of Multinational Corporation (SEM) regime come from the United States, Denmark, Scotland and the Netherlands, among other countries, explained Trade Minister Augusto Arosemena.
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