Business Interest Deduction Limitation Policy

As part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, the United States introduced new limits on interest deductions for businesses. Although countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) generally set interest deduction limits, starting this year, the United States uses earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) as the tax base for the limit, which has become an anomaly.

The change effectively tightened restrictions on U.S. corporations at the same time as interest rates rose, leading to higher taxes for many. A better approach would be to reconsider the potential economic impact of this change and reset EBITDA as an interest limit to comply with international norms.

Countries may limit interest deductions for a number of reasons: for example, to reduce tax avoidance by moving debt across borders from low-tax subsidiaries to related companies in high-tax jurisdictions, and to help balance the tax treatment of debt-financed investments in equity financing (equity financing generally not deductible).

There are several types of interest deduction restrictions, known as thin capitalization (hereinafter referred to as thin capitalization) rules. One option is to limit the deduction under the transfer pricing regulations applicable to the interest rate. Other restrictions include the safe harbor rule, which creates a debt-to-equity ratio in which interest payments on debt above that ratio are not deductible. The profit stripping rule sets a limit based on the share of profit before taxes, such as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

Several studies have shown that the thin-cover rule

There could be various adverse economic effects, such as reduced investment, reduced employment, and a decline in the market value of businesses. Thus, when designing thin-cap rules, countries face a trade-off between adverse economic impacts and limiting tax base erosion. At the same time, depending on the design of the rules, they may also reduce debt bias. However, measures that incentivize equity financing (such as corporate equity allowances) may also be effective if weakening rules are introduced to reduce debt bias.

Under U.S. federal tax law, businesses can deduct net interest payments on debt from their taxable income within certain limits. From 2018 to 2021, the cap is set at 30% of EBITDA.

As of the start of the year, the net interest deduction limit was tightened to 30% of earnings before interest and taxes, removing depreciation and amortization from the calculation. In short, this means that companies using EBITDA must multiply their deduction by 30% of their depreciation and amortization cost under the previous limit. For many companies, this represents a substantial increase in taxes—especially capital and R&D-intensive firms with relatively high debt loads—and it comes at a dangerous time, as rising interest rates lead to economic weakness across multiple sectors ( This in itself pushes more companies to the limit).

The change also raises the tax barrier for new investments. Kyle Pomerleau of the American Enterprise Institute found that tighter interest limits increased the marginal effective tax rate on new investments by 0.5 percentage point for corporations and 0.1 percentage point for pass-through businesses.

Looking at the OECD, the U.S. restriction on the use of EBIT stands out. 26 OECD countries use EBITDA as the earnings stripping limit (see table below). It is worth noting that none of the OECD countries use limits based on EBIT.

One of the reasons for the adoption of EBITDA-based limits in many European countries is the EU’s Anti-Avoidance Directive, which established EBITDA as a common definition of interest limits across the EU, as part of the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project. In the EU, the most common limit is 30% of EBITDA, with separate safe harbor and transfer pricing rules.

While there is disagreement over the amount of interest that should be deducted, it is clear that the EBIT-based limit makes the US an outlier compared with other OECD countries, while endangering many companies and raising the cost of new investments.

Policymakers should consider reverting EBITDA to the interest limit threshold. This can then be aligned with any chosen level of deductible interest.

Interest deduction limitation rules in OECD countries until 2022
nation interest deduction limit
Australia Deduction of interest is permitted if it is a return on “debt interest” incurred while earning non-capital income and other thin capitalization rules are met Debt to equity ratio of 1.5:1 for general entities and 15:1 for financial entities Exemption limit value 200 Deductions for $10,000 or less
Austria Interest limitation rules apply to “excessive borrowing costs”, i.e. costs exceeding €3 million and exceeding 30% of Adjusted EBITDA
Fair dealing standards apply
No formal safe harbor rules, but an informal 4:1 debt-to-equity ratio applies
Belgium Interest deduction limited to EUR 3 million or 30% of EBITDA, whichever is higher
5:1 debt-to-equity ratio applies to intra-group loans
1:1 debt to equity ratio applies to accounts receivable from shareholders or directors, managers and liquidators
Canada Business interest deduction will be limited to 40% of EBITDA for tax years beginning after 2022 and before 2024 and 30% of EBITDA for tax years after 2023 1.5:1 tax year debt-to-equity Started after 2012
Czech Republic Interest deduction limited to SEK 80 million or 30% of EBITDA, whichever is higher
A 4:1 debt-to-equity ratio (6:1 for some financial services firms) applies
Denmark Interest deduction limited to 30% of EBITDA, minimum deduction allowed is DKK 22.3m Interest deduction limited to 2.3% of assets if net financing costs exceed SEK 21.3m 4:1 debt-to-equity ratio applies
other rules may apply
Estonia For multinational companies, interest deduction is limited to EUR 3 million or 30% of EBITDA, whichever is higher
Finland Intra-group interest expense must not exceed 25% of the company’s adjusted taxable income (“taxable EBITD”, which includes taxable income and adds back interest expense and tax depreciation).with some exceptions
Interest expenses do not exceed the interest income paid by the company
Net interest expenses up to EUR 500,000 are fully deductible
The company’s equity/asset ratio is equal to or greater than the group ratio
Net interest expenses between unrelated parties must not exceed EUR 3 million
France Interest deduction limited to EUR 3 million or 30% of EBITDA, whichever is higher
Different limits apply to related party debt, banks and credit institutions
Germany Interest deduction limited to EUR 3 million or 30% of EBITDA, whichever is higher
carry forward allowed
The taxpayer is not part of a corporate group
The taxpayer cannot prove that the borrower’s shareholding ratio is lower than the global group’s shareholding ratio by no more than 2 percentage points
Greece Net interest deduction limit for certain classes of interest if it exceeds EUR 3 million or 30% of tax-adjusted EBITDA
Hungary Excess borrowing costs can be deducted up to 30% of EBITDA
Separate entities are exempt from tax if their borrowing costs are less than EUR 3 million
Loans entered into before June 2016 apply the previous weakened rules and apply a 3:1 debt-to-equity ratio
Iceland Interest deduction limited to 30% of EBITDA
The rule does not apply if the total amount of interest paid does not exceed SEK 100 million
Ireland Ireland limits corporate interest deduction to 30% of tax-adjusted EBITDA from 1 January 2022 under the EU’s anti-avoidance directive The new rules do not apply to loans entered into before 17 June 2016 and there are Exemption for taxpayers with net borrowing costs below €3 million
Israel There are no thin capitalization rules and no specific debt-to-equity ratio requirements for interest deductions.
Italy Interest deduction limited to 30% of EBITDA
Japan A company’s deductible net interest expense is limited to 20% of EBITDA, adjusted to exclude special income or losses Businesses with net interest expense less than JPY 20 million are exempt from carrying forward for up to seven years
latvia Interest deduction over EUR 3 million not to exceed 30% of EBITDA (exempt for certain financial institutions) 4:1 debt-to-equity ratio applies for deduction up to EUR 3 million (exempt for certain financial institutions)
Lithuania Interest deduction limited to EUR 3 million or 30% of EBITDA 4:1 debt-to-equity ratio applies
The rule does not apply if the entity’s debt-to-equity ratio is not lower than (or at most 2 percentage points) the group consolidated ratio
Luxembourg Interest deduction limited to EUR 3 million or 30% of EBITDA, whichever is higher
Mexico 30% of adjusted taxable income (plus interest, depreciation, amortization, and preoperating expenses) and a limit of MXN 20 million on total interest expense applies to a 3:1 debt-to-equity ratio for interest payments between related parties
Netherlands Interest deduction limited to EUR 1 million or 20% of EBITDA, whichever is higher
Norway Interest deduction cannot exceed 25% of EBITDA if the deduction exceeds SEK 25 million
Poland If the deduction exceeds PLN 3 million, the interest deduction is limited to 30% of EBITDA
Portugal Interest deduction is limited to EUR 1 million or 30% of EBITDA, whichever is higher
Slovak Republic Interest deduction cannot exceed 25% of EBITDA (except for financial institutions)
slovenia A debt-to-equity ratio of 4:1 applies
South Korea A debt-to-equity ratio of 2:1 applies (6:1 for financial institutions). Interest deduction cannot exceed 30% of EBITDA (except for financial institutions)
Spain Interest deduction may not exceed 30% of EBITDA if the deduction exceeds EUR 1 million
Sweden Interest deduction may not exceed 30% of EBITDA if the deduction exceeds SEK 5 million
Switzerland Debt-to-equity ratios apply and vary by asset class
turkey A debt-to-equity ratio of 3:1 applies (6:1 for financial institutions)
U.K. Interest deduction cannot exceed 30% of EBITDA if the deduction exceeds £2 million
U.S. Interest deduction limited to the sum of business interest income, 30% of adjusted taxable income and floor plan financing interest

Sources: Bloomberg Tax, “Country Guide: Anti-Avoidance Provisions – Thin Capitalization/Other Interest Deduction Rules”; and PwC, “Global Tax Digest: Corporations – Group Taxation”, “Global Tax Digest: Corporations – Deductions” , Tax Foundation, “International Tax Competitiveness Index, 2022.”

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