Last week, Kevin Brady, Chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, issued a statement welcoming the “abandonment” of the European Union’s proposed digital services tax. However, I think that was a piece of wishful thinking on the Texas Republican’s part. The EU rarely abandons anything, least of all high priority tax initiatives. I refer you to the common consolidated corporate tax base (currently gridlocked) and the financial transaction tax (back from the dead).
However, that France, Germany, and Austria (which currently holds the EU presidency) were last week prepared to accept a watered-down digital tax proposal in return for an agreement was an indication of just how strongly certain member states (notably Ireland, Sweden, and Denmark) oppose the idea, and therefore just how unlikely it is to be implemented in its original form.
The compromise text argued that the … Read More »
There’ll be a digital tax by Christmas, proclaimed European Commissioner for Taxation Pierre Moscovici last week. Perhaps he needs to brush up on his history. We’ve heard such bold claims in previous eras. For example, they said that World War One would be all over by Christmas. And it was. Christmas 1918, not Christmas 1914.
Nevertheless, as Christmas 2018 approaches, digital taxation is dominating the international tax agenda. Indeed, it’s somewhat like listening to children excitedly discussing their chances of receiving the next new-fangled toy or gadget in their Christmas stockings this year – every government now seems to want a digital tax! The Spanish Government just added one to its 2019 Budget wish list; the UK isn’t quite sure yet whether it really needs a digital tax, but it certainly would like one; and at the beginning of October, the … Read More »
Taxpayers in Brazil might have been a little alarmed when they read the headline “UK Chancellor mulling Amazon tax.” Brazil has a complicated enough tax regime already, as the International Monetary Fund observed again earlier this month, without other countries adding their two cents to the already mind-bogglingly complex equation.
Obviously, Philip Hammond was talking about Amazon the company, not the Amazon river (although both share the distinction of being extraordinarily large). Nevertheless, given the subject matter and the UK Government’s intent, his words would have reverberated globally, perhaps even as far as the upper reaches of the Amazon. The river, that is. Though no doubt the upper reaches of Amazon’s management structure are well aware that governments and tax authorities the world over are circling, hungry for a piece of the pie.
Indeed, in Amazon’s home country, states have quickly capitalized … Read More »
Companies in the remote gambling sector aren’t exactly having a happy time of it, as they face an increasingly dangerous tax and regulatory minefield in the jurisdictions in which they operate, especially in Europe. Two recent cases highlight how the European market has become something of a lottery for the remote gambling sector. The first was in Germany, where a recent court decision appeared to all but slam the door on e-gaming and gambling firms, but, with this ruling apparently contradicting earlier jurisprudence, including from the EU courts, this situation is far from clear. The other was in Belgium, where remote gambling firms won a major tax victory after legislation that imposed value-added tax on the supply of e-gaming services, while leaving the legacy gambling sector exempt from VAT, was annulled.
Culturally, some countries, including in Europe, have been hostile to the gambling … Read More »
In the beginning, when the internet broke out from its traditional role as a communications device for academics, college nerds, and the US military, offshore was predicted to be the center of the e-commerce universe. By locating websites offshore and in low-tax jurisdictions to carry out functions previously based in high-tax jurisdictions, businesses would be able to take advantage of low rates of taxation for increasingly substantial parts of their operation, or so the theory went. Indeed, in many cases, there’d be no need to have a presence “onshore” at all. Obviously, most internet-based businesses have taken full advantage of their almost ethereal presence to pay less tax in places like the US and Europe, and the world’s governments are only now starting to catch up. However, while many offshore jurisdictions talked the talk during the early phases of the … Read More »
As usual during this period of fiscal stress for countries across the world, we look in vain for any cuts in taxes. But at least in Malta they are trying to improve matters for businesses through simplification of the tax system and throttling back the impositions of government. As I say that, I can already hear the offended wailings of the anti-brigade: oh, but Malta is offshore, it is a tax haven, it steals revenue from big “respectable” countries like Germany by helping banks and gaming companies with low tax rates, so that they can’t get the revenue to help their poor, huddled masses to survive the rigors of the nuclear winter we are all trying to survive. Let’s be clear: the “nuclear winter” is a direct result of the debts taken on by those countries’ politicians in pursuit of … Read More »
“Fog On The River Plate: Argentina Cut Off!” That’s how it must seem to tormented Argentine consumers, who are gradually being incarcerated behind an impenetrable wall of fiscal constraints which effectively prevent them from dealing with the outside world. The rules governing e-commerce importations are so strict and bureaucratic that such imports will cease, to all intents and purposes. Argentinians are used to getting around their government’s pettifogging restrictions, yet even so, this is a Draconian and illiberal measure, which the government has been driven to by its own profligate incompetence. No doubt digital imports, which cannot be taxed at all, will substitute in some respects: no-one will buy a CD from the outside world any more; instead they will download the digital version of the album direct from i-Tunes or wherever, using a tablet bought duty-free on a trip … Read More »
Singapore has issued some quite sensible guidance on tax aspects of bitcoin transactions, which suggests that there must be a fair amount of bitcoin activity there. The first Asian bitcoin conference was held in Singapore last year, at any rate. Bitcoins join Uzbekhistan on the list of subjects on which I am passing ignorant. I keep trying and failing to understand the phenomenon of bitcoins. Theoretically one should be in favor of a virtual currency with, so to speak, monetary limits (unlike existing national paper currencies, which are being inflated out of sight by central banks who want to keep interest rates low), but I question the usefulness of a currency which by definition can never exist in large quantities. On the other hand, other, similar currencies could exist in large numbers. If there is a bitcoin, why shouldn’t there … Read More »
Most countries give some sort of beneficial treatment to investments in technology, particularly start-ups, and this week’s particular case is Italy, which will favor young entrepreneurs for the next few years. I do like the fact that there is positive discrimination in favor of women entrepreneurs of any age, while for men only the young ones are rewarded. Given how many Italian men are living at home with their parents, and not just young ones, I predict a rash of granny start-ups: so when in three years’ time you see a statistic showing that Italy has the most innovative oldsters in the world, you’ll know why. “Cherchez l’impot” is just as true as “Cherchez la femme.” More generally, it’s stretching a point to give Italy a prize this week; the Government is bouncing from one crisis to another, and it … Read More »
For the European countries which used to make some or all of their living from being “low-tax,” which does of course include Switzerland, the EU has always been the elephant in the room, and if Switzerland may by now regret having been ambivalent towards the EU, some other countries which threw in their lot more whole-heartedly with the EU have met with unexpected outcomes. In the case of Cyprus, the initial EU-induced boom has turned to ashes in its mouth; but Malta seems to have gotten everything right, and is carefully building itself into a diversified financial services and e-commerce centre. Its latest wheeze is to create a secondary stock market designed to attract smaller, more entrepreneurial companies; technically it will be known as a Multilateral Trading Facility under the country’s investment legislation. Jersey and Guernsey have shown what can … Read More »