Introduction to Polish Tax Law

by Paweł Smoleń (Author) Marcin Burzec (Author)
©2018 Monographs 158 Pages
Series: Ius, Lex et Res Publica, Volume 8


Poland has seen the process of tax law reform going on for many years. The economic and political transformation at the turn of the 20th century determined the fundamental trends of the transformation of this area of law. A novelty in the Polish tax legislation is the need of incorporating, or aligning with, the legal standards required through the membership in the European Union. However, this law harmonisation process fails to address the whole of Polish tax law. This book covers the fundamental areas of taxation and tax law in Poland. It explores the tax theory, general tax law, and specific taxes supplying the central and self-government budget revenues. The authors also seek to highlight selected issues of the operation and evolution of Polish tax law.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • 1 Taxes and Tax Law: The Essentials
  • 1.1 Introduction
  • 1.2 The Concept and Structure of Tax
  • 1.3 Classification of Taxes
  • 1.4 The Sources and Principles of Drafting Tax Law
  • 2 Tax Obligations
  • 2.1 When a Tax Obligation Arises
  • 2.2 Securing the Performance of Tax Obligations
  • 2.2.1 Securing Tax Obligations before Payment Deadline
  • 2.2.2 Compulsory Mortgage
  • 2.2.3 Treasury Lien
  • 2.3 Expiry of Tax Obligations
  • 2.3.1 Introduction
  • 2.3.2 Effective Expiry of Tax Obligations
  • 2.3.3 Ineffective Expiry of Tax Obligations
  • 2.4 Liability for Tax Obligations
  • 2.4.1 Introduction
  • 2.4.2 Taxpayer’s Liability
  • 2.4.3 Tax Remitter and Tax Collector’s Liability
  • 2.4.4 Legal Successors’ Liability
  • 2.4.5 Third Parties’ Liability
  • 3 Tax Proceedings
  • 3.1 Tax Authorities
  • 3.2 A Party to Tax Proceedings
  • 3.3 General Rules Governing Tax Proceedings
  • 3.4 Tax Proceedings: Types and Procedures
  • 3.5 Selected Institutions of Tax Proceedings
  • 3.5.1 Deadlines
  • 3.5.2 Restoration of a Deadline
  • 3.5.3 Service of Notices
  • 3.5.4 Suspension of Tax Proceedings
  • 3.5.5 Penalties
  • 4 Taxes Intended for the State Budget
  • 4.1 Tax on Goods and Services
  • 4.2 Excise Tax
  • 4.3 Gambling Tax
  • 4.4 Corporate Income Tax
  • 4.4.1 Taxable Entities
  • 4.4.2 Taxable Object
  • 4.4.3 Tax Base and Tax Deductions
  • 4.4.4 Tax Scale and Tax Rates
  • 4.4.5 Minimum Income Tax on the Value of Commercial Facilities
  • 4.4.6 Payment Terms and Procedure
  • 4.5 Personal Income Tax
  • 4.5.1 Taxable Persons
  • 4.5.2 Taxable Object
  • 4.5.3 Tax Base and the Amount of Tax
  • 4.5.4 Payment Terms and Procedure
  • 4.6 Simplified Forms of Personal Income Tax
  • 4.6.1 Lump Tax as a Simplified Form of Taxation
  • 4.6.2 Lump Tax on Inventoried Revenues
  • 4.6.3 Lump Income Tax on the Revenues of the Clergy
  • 4.7 Tonnage Tax
  • 4.8 Tax on Extraction of Selected Minerals
  • 4.9 Special Hydrocarbon Tax
  • 4.10 Tax on Selected Financial Institutions
  • 5 Taxes Intended for the Municipal Budget
  • 5.1 Tax on Transactions under Civil Law
  • 5.1.1 Taxable Object
  • 5.1.2 Tax Liability
  • 5.1.3 Taxable Person
  • 5.1.4 Tax Base and the Amount of Tax
  • 5.1.5 Tax Exemptions
  • 5.1.6 Tax Payment and Collection
  • 5.2 Inheritance and Gift Tax
  • 5.2.1 Taxable Object
  • 5.2.2 Taxable Person
  • 5.2.3 Tax Liability
  • 5.2.4 Exemptions from Inheritance and Gift Tax
  • 5.2.5 Tax Base
  • 5.2.6 Tax Rates
  • 5.2.7 Housing Relief
  • 5.2.8 Payment Terms
  • 5.3 Fixed-Rate Tax
  • 5.4 Real Property Tax
  • 5.4.1 Taxable Person
  • 5.4.2 Taxable Object
  • 5.4.3 Exemptions from Real Property Tax
  • 5.4.4 Tax Base and Tax Rates
  • 5.4.5 Payment Terms and Procedure
  • 5.5 Agricultural Tax
  • 5.5.1 Taxable Person
  • 5.5.2 Taxable Object
  • 5.5.3 Exemptions from Agricultural Tax
  • 5.5.4 Tax Base and Tax Rates
  • 5.5.5 Reliefs in Agricultural Tax
  • 5.5.6 Payment Terms and Procedure
  • 5.6 Forest Tax
  • 5.6.1 Taxable Object
  • 5.6.2 Taxable Person
  • 5.6.3 Tax Base and Tax Rates
  • 5.6.4 Exemptions from Forest Tax
  • 5.6.5 Payment Terms and Procedure
  • 5.7 Transportation Tax
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Series index

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1 Taxes and Tax Law: The Essentials

1.1 Introduction

Polish tax law has undergone a lengthy process of evolution which has coincided with a number of fundamental political, systemic, economic, and social shifts. All these shifts have directly influenced the shape of contemporary Polish tax law as well as setting the strategic directions of its development. The turbulent history of Poland saw events that altered dramatically not only tax law proper but also the functions assigned to public levies.

The current status of Polish tax law was mainly influenced by the changes of the early 1990s. This was when the central and local self-government systems were established. Both these systems of administration have their own powers, budgets, and own income that covers for their expenditure. Of course, taxes play a very important role in their budgets. The units of local self-government at all levels (gmina – municipality, powiat – district, and województwo – voivodeship or province) are also public law bodies authorised to collect taxes. The period of political and economic transformation referred to above also marked the beginning of a major tax law reform. The taxation system of the communist era was subject to revision and gradually supplanted by an approach pursued in free market economies. Also, some new solutions were adopted not seen in the tax law of communist Poland. They primarily governed the taxation of income (personal income tax and corporate income tax) and economic transactions (tax on goods and services). Poland’s entry into the European Union (EU) necessitated a profound adjustment of Polish tax law to the EU standards. At the same time, today’s tax law has preserved some regulations that were created back in the former political system. For example, the tax on land of agricultural holdings (agricultural tax), inheritance and gift tax. Consequently, today’s Polish tax law is a mixture of EU solutions and domestic regulations derived from the Polish fiscal tradition. Undoubtedly, it is also a fast-growing scholarly discipline addressed extensively across all the major research centres Poland-wide. At universities, tax law is part of the core curriculum of not only law but also of administration, economics, or management programmes. ← 11 | 12 →

1.2 The Concept and Structure of Tax

The Polish tax system failed to provide a legal (statutory) definition of tax for a relatively long period. This gap was filled by the academia which proposed a theoretical definition of tax. It says that tax is a cash benefit to a body governed by public law (state or local self-government), determined unilaterally by that body and having a general, essential, non-returnable, non-reciprocal, and compulsory nature.

No earlier than in 1997 was the Tax Ordinance Act adopted which provided a statutory definition of tax by incorporating the elements of the scholarly definition.1 According to the Tax Ordinance Act, tax is a public, non-reciprocal, compulsory and non-refundable pecuniary performance in favour of the State Treasury, voivodeship, district, or municipal budget.

Non-reciprocal character of tax means that the taxpayer paying tax should not expect anything in return (any benefit) from the state or a self-government unit. This differentiates taxes from fees or charges that are paid in exchange for some administrative service or formal service, e.g. issuing an identification document. Consequently, the taxpayer may not claim anything from the state or local self-government based on the principle of reciprocity.

Tax is a compulsory contribution. This means that it can be collected by force, i.e. through administrative enforcement.

A characteristic feature of tax is that it is non-refundable, which means that any tax collected legally is not to be returned. This, of course, does not apply to a tax overpayment which is subject to refund.

Tax is a pecuniary performance. This means that, in principle, it is collected in cash, although the law also provides for the seizure of taxpayer’s assets if tax arrears occur.

Besides the attributed named above, each tax also has its own unique structure. It consists of several elements specific to the type of tax. These are: 1) taxable person; 2) taxable object; 3) tax base; 4) tax scale; 5) exemptions and reliefs. ← 12 | 13 →

There are two types of taxable persons (or tax subjects). Taxable persons are both ones that impose and collect tax for themselves (the state and local self-government) and ones that are obliged to pay tax, i.e. the taxpayer.

The taxpayer is not the same as the tax remitter. Tax remitter is an intermediary between the state and the taxpayer. The tax remitter’s obligations are threefold: 1) to calculate tax; 2) to collect tax from the taxpayer; 3) to pay the tax to the tax authority within a prescribed time limit. In Poland, the institution of tax remitter occurs both in taxes collected for the state budget and those feeding the local self-government budgets. When collecting some of the local taxes, (e.g. agricultural tax, forest tax), there is an option of paying the tax through another entity – the tax collector. Tax collector performs the same activities as the remitter, but it does not calculate the tax since it is fixed by the relevant tax authority. The tax collector only collects the tax and forwards it to the relevant tax authority.

Taxable object is a taxable item or fact/phenomenon. Knowing the object of taxation means knowing what the tax is levied on.

Tax base is the concretisation of the object of taxation. The tax base is subject to a tax rate expressed as an amount or percentage value. The rates in a given tax make a tax scale. Typically, there are two types of tax scales: 1) proportional; 2) non-proportional (progressive).

The proportional scale has a fixed tax rate. This means that despite the changing tax base the rate is always the same, and the amount of levy varies in proportion to the changing value of the tax base. The non-proportional (progressive) scale has a varied rate depending on the size of the tax base.

1.3 Classification of Taxes

The doctrine of Polish tax law classifies taxes based on a number of criteria. As a result, not only does a uniform classification system not exist, there is even no uniform tax nomenclature following such a division. In addition, the existing taxes often reveal a differentiated internal structure, which makes them – even when applying a uniform tax classification methodology – exhibit characteristics specific to different types of taxation. This leads to fundamental differences in the assessment of the nature of a given tax, and this is not a mere theoretical dispute. The proper assessment of the nature of tax (e.g. property or income tax) has an impact on ← 13 | 14 → the approach to and the result of interpretation of the relevant regulations applicable in practice by, e.g. administrative courts. The tax classification given below does not exhaust the entire subject of taxation and covers only the most common of its forms.

The basic criterion for the classification of taxes is the type of public entity which benefits from the tax proceeds. Bearing that in mind, we have the following types of taxes:


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
Tax Obligations Tax Proceedings State Taxes Local Taxes
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien. 2018. 158 p., 3 b/w tab.

Biographical notes

Paweł Smoleń (Author) Marcin Burzec (Author)

Paweł Smoleń is Professor and Head of the Department of Finance and Financial Law at the Faculty of Law, Canon Law and Administration of The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. He also serves as Chairman of the International Research Network KULTAX. His research and classes cover a wide range of financial law issues, with particular emphasis on financial and legal matters at the local government level. Marcin Burzec is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, Canon Law and Administration of The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. His research and classes cover a wide range of financial law issues, with particular emphasis on tax law and comparative tax law.


Title: Introduction to Polish Tax Law
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160 pages