Thursday, 19 January 2012

A uniform transaction tax regime for the EU?

1709 Blog reader John Walker posted the following question as a comment on that blog, but it seems to me that it's more likely to receive an answer on this one. He writes:
"Australia used to have a very complex sales tax regime (for example the tax on tissue paper in a box was much more than the tax on the same tissue paper if wrapped around a toilet roll). Australia in the year 2000 introduced a uniform Goods and Services Tax (GST). GST largely replaced a complex and hard to see system, levied by both the Federal and the individual state governments, with a uniform tax levied at the same rate on every transaction. (there are some exceptions, but nobody's perfect)

Many of the EU's copyright' levies are transaction taxes; the nexus between the consent of a right holder and payment to the same right holder is clearly severed.

Doesn't the EU have any policy about aiming for a reasonably uniform transaction tax regime?"
Can any reader give John some assistance on this point?

1 comment:

Anne Fairpo said...

Hmm, I think the reference to GST is a little misleading in context: for actual IP transactions, the EU has value added tax (VAT) which is, arguably, a somewhat uniform transaction tax regime – the rates vary and there are some local idiosyncrasies, but the policy is fairly consistent throughout the EU. Australian GST was based on the EU VAT system.

The EU copyright levy is something else entirely, a levy on storage media, and doesn't have an equivalent in Australia: GST is not comparable to the levy, nor were the previous taxes that it replaced. Copyright levies were declared unconstitutional in Australia in the late 80s (can't remember the case, but there was one).

The EU is trying to harmonise the copyright levies, yes – as usual, it's a slow and grinding process. The most recent consultation on the levies ended in April 2008. There is no hope that the EU will blend this in to VAT though, as the levy isn't regarded as an IP transaction tax – the payment is too remote from any actual IP copying event that might be regarded as a transfer.