The Digital Services Tax
The Treasury has announced plans to introduce a Digital Services Tax (“DST”) from April 2020, which it anticipates will raise £1.5 billion over four years.
The introduction of the DST reflects the UK’s discontent with the taxation outcome of certain highly digitalised businesses under the current international tax framework. The view is that the DST will act as a short term solution to the tax challenges of digitalisation while a global consensus-based solution is designed and implemented within the EU, G20 and OECD. Due to its interim nature, the DST will be subject to formal review in 2025.
The DST will apply a 2% tax on the revenues of three specific in-scope digital business models: the provision of a search engine, social media platforms, and online marketplaces. The tax has a broad nexus rule focusing on the location of the user, not the business. This means that the DST will apply to the revenues of both resident and non-resident enterprises, irrespective of their level of physical presence in the UK, whenever they are linked to UK users. However, the DST is intended to target large tech companies only. As a result, only large businesses which generate at least £500m from in-scope business models will be subject to the DST.
The stated intention is for the DST to operate outside the scope of tax treaties. This hints at the view that the DST will not (either as matter of form or substance) be designed as a tax on income or any element of income covered by Article 2 (Taxes Covered) of the OECD Model Tax Convention. By operating outside tax treaties, major non-resident tech companies will be unable to credit the DST charge against income tax imposed by their country of residence.
Compliance with EU law will be required if the transition period proposed in the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is agreed upon. In particular, the DST must be compliant with the fundamental freedoms set out in the TFEU and the prohibition on State aid. It should be noted that the CJEU currently has two requests for a preliminary ruling concerning the application of Hungary’s advertisement tax to Google (C-482/18) and Vodafone (C-75/18). Hungary’s advertisement tax is also a unilateral measure aimed at addressing the tax challenges of certain digitalised businesses (online advertising services) and, like the DST, the scope of Hungary’s advertisement tax is also ultimately dependant on the location of the targeted public.
An Assessment to Tax is never ‘stale’, but it might be out of date: HMRC v Tooth
This article briefly discusses the key points arising out of the decision of the UK Supreme Court in HMRC v Tooth  UKSC 17. The case considered (1) whether a discovery assessment could become “stale” and (2) the meaning of the phrase “deliberate inaccuracy”.
VATA 1994 s.47, Agency, Onward Supply Relief, & Double Taxation
On 12 July 2021, the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) (“FTT”) released its decision in Scanwell Logistics (UK) Limited v HMRC  UKFTT 261 (TC), rejecting the taxpayer’s claim for onward supply relief (“OSR”).
Whilst OSR is now limited, post-Brexit, to goods imported into Northern Ireland for onward supply to the EU, the FTT’s discussion of agency under section 47 of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 (“VATA”) is of broader interest.
The case serves as a reminder of the significant financial consequences that can result from errors in tax planning, as Scanwell was ultimately held liable for £5.7 million in unpaid import VAT despite the fact that the imported goods almost immediately left the UK (which, if properly planned, could have meant Scanwell was relieved from liability to import VAT).
Draft Finance Bill 2022—tax avoidance measures
Helen McGhee, senior associate at Joseph Hage Aaronson LLP, considers the draft Finance Bill 2022 clauses published on 20 July 2021 in relation to tax avoidance and recent updates to the tax avoidance regime.
Getting Closer: A Global Minimum Tax on Corporations
On 1 July 2021, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced that countries representing over 90% of global GDP had agreed to a global minimum tax on corporations (“GMCT”). The GMCT seeks to put a floor on tax competition on corporate income through the introduction of a minimum corporate tax of at least 15%. Whilst certain elements give rise to positive expectations, some caveats should be noted. Much will depend on (1) the outcome of future political negotiations and (2) the detail of the drafting at international and national levels.
The DBKAG & K (CJEU) decision: an opportunity for investment funds?
On 17 June 2021, the European Court decided the joint cases K (C-58/20) and DBKAG (C-59/20) regarding whether the supply of certain services constituted the “management of special investment funds”, benefiting from the VAT exemption enshrined in Article 135(1)(g) of Council Directive 2006/112/EC.