Tuesday, 16 October 2012

European Commission looks to level the playing field -- and the "paying field"

A level playing-field for online and offline
business? VAT rhymes with "flat" ...
Via the ever-helpful Magali Delhaye, we are informed of the following piece of news which will concern many tax-paying IP-based businesses in the European Union. Magali has spotted the Public Consultation which the European Commission has launched into current legislation on reduced VAT rates. She adds:
Point 7 of the Public Consultation is concerned with similar goods and services which should (potentially) be subject to the same VAT rate because, due to technological development, a comparable product is available both online and off-line. These products include
• On-line publications compared to paper publications (books, newspapers, magazines, etc.) and audio books, 
• Radio and television broadcasting online and off-line.
According to the Public Consultation: 
“Online publications, and online radio and television broadcasting are, for the purposes of VAT, considered as electronically supplied services which, according to Article 98(2) of the VAT Directive, are excluded from the scope of reduced VAT rates.”
Allowing for the application of a reduced VAT rate for certain electronic services would, in the view of the Commission, require a uniform approach at an EU level in the definition of the qualifying products. In that sense, the Public Consultation asks the following: 
“Q6: Do you agree that those electronic services that would qualify for the reduced rate will have to be precisely defined in a uniform way at an EU level or do you consider that a broad definition in the VAT Directive would be sufficient?”
When it comes to the definition of an e-book, which is likely to become increasingly controversial as greater functionality (music, videos, live links, etc.) becomes more prevalent, the Public Consultation asks 
“Q7: Considering the need for a uniform and future proofed approach at EU level, what should be the definition of an e-book in EU-law?”
As for newspapers and periodicals compared to online publications, Q8 asks 
“Considering the need for a uniform and future proofed approach at EU level, what should be the definition of online newspapers and online periodicals in EU-law?"
Finally, concerning radio and television broadcasting online and off-line, the Commission asks: 
“Q9: Are the definitions laid down in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive sufficiently clear were a reduced VAT rate allowed for on-line radio and television broadcasting?”
According to the media release announcing the launch of this consultation, it is 
“part of the wider work being done to fundamentally reform the EU VAT system, in order to make it simpler, more efficient and more robust. It will run until 3 January 2013. … The results of the public consultation will feed into the preparation of new proposals on VAT rates, which the Commission will present next year”.
The link to the Public Consultation is here.

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