New tax liabilities for digital images industry

Wed Mar 15, 2017

Snapchat, the image messaging platform founded in 2011, was valued at USD$40 billion in early March after a record-breaking IPO – making it more valuable than Delta, Target, and CBS.

Digital imagery

These eye-watering figures are yet another example of how the sale, download, use, and sharing of digital imagery, music, and video is now big business. According to IBM we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. The sources of this data boom are everywhere online with all major social media sites depending heavily on user-generated images and videos. Parallel to this is a booming industry in the purchase and download of such digital images and videos. Let’s first focus on some key market indicators:

  • In late 2016 one of the market leaders in the sale of digital image and video downloads, Adobe, announced Q4 2016 revenues of $1.61 billion, representing year-over-year growth of 23%. It was outside the US where Adobe achieved most of it’s growth with an uptick in revenue of 24.5% between 2015 and 2016 in the Asia-Pacific region. Elsewhere, revenues rose by 22% in the Americas and by 21% in the EMEA region.
  • This non-U.S. growth is further emphasised in Adobe’s January 2017 investor presentation where they point to a 46% increase in non-U.S. subscriber numbers for their popular Creative Cloud product.
  • By 2020, according to a recent Accenture report, some 2 billion consumers - or 60% of the target global population - will be performing 13.5% of their total retail consumptions online, equivalent to a market value of USD$3.4 trillion in revenue.
  • In the related market of digital photography global demand was valued at USD$77.5 billion in 2015 and expected to hit USD$110 billion by 2021. Once again non-US sales are slated to be where the bulk of the global growth in digital sales is due to come from.
  • While growth for many digital businesses seems to be from the international market, these opportunities must be balanced with the ongoing recalibration of legislation in these countries. For example, Netflix, in their most recent SEC 10-K filing, pointed to the introduction of the 2015 European VAT rules on cross-border digital services as impacting monthly revenues. They add that their failure to manage “these risks successfully could harm our international operations and our overall business, and results of our operations.”

Tax models changing for the digital world

Where there is a new, and successful, business model it is inevitable taxation will follow. This is what is now happening in the realm of digital taxation.

Advances in technology have allowed markets to develop that span the globe, consumers - no matter their location - can now purchase digital services at any time and from anywhere.

The cross-border purchase and download of digital imagery, music, and video are among the transaction types that international tax authorities are targeting. They are doing so based on new taxation models as recommended by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) in Action 1 of its seminal 2015 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) report. The most popular model (with variations of the same theme in use in the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand, Russia, and soon to be in law, from July 1, in Australia) is to base taxation of such digital transactions on the location of the consumer.

The key point here is that the new age of digital taxation places the burden of compliance squarely on the shoulders of digital merchants. Affected merchants now need to be aware of, and comply with, the host of existing and future domestic laws that impact the sale of digital services to consumers globally.

Taxes have a nasty habit of causing problems if they are ignored.. These legislative changes need to be factored into all affected business models as compliance will have an effect on existing, and new, revenue streams.

Partner with Taxamo

Taxamo, however, is one step ahead. By partnering with us we take on a business’s digital tax liability in impacted countries, thus allowing the business to simply concentrate on their core business. We remove the regulatory headaches attached to modern-day international e-commerce.

We also know that every business is different, we use this knowledge to create bespoke solutions for each partner.

We will tend to your global tax liabilities so you can continue to sell your services.

Note: Taxamo content is created for guidance only, please consult your local tax advisor.

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