Reflections on the proposals of the European Commission for a digital tax

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Published Mar 17, 2022
Oliver Sievering


Digitalisation leads to significant changes in many areas of the economy. Chancellor Angela Merkel believes that the increasing collection and the use of consumer data associated with digitalisation is creating fundamental justice problems. The public debate focuses on the taxation of international digital companies. Facebook and other Internet giants make high profits in Europe, but they are hardly taxed there. In the opinion of many politicians, this is unacceptable - but it complies with the applicable standards of the international tax system. The current corporate tax rules are built on the principle that profits should be taxed where the value is created. The tax rules were mainly conceived in the early 20th century for traditional businesses. They define what triggers a right to tax in a country ("where to tax") and how much of corporate income is allocated to a country ("how much to tax") largely based on having a physical presence in that country and without reflecting the value created by user participation. That means that non-residents for taxation purposes become liable to tax in a country only if they have a presence that amounts to a permanent establishment there. The Commission has made two legislative proposals in 2018. The new rules would ensure that online businesses contribute to public finances at the same level as traditional 'brick-and-mortar' companies. 1. A digital platform will be deemed to have a taxable 'digital presence' or a virtual permanent establishment in a Member State if it fulfils certain criteria. 2. The European Commission intends to introduce a 3% tax on sales through the sale of user data, the provision of online advertising and the provision of online marketplaces. The tax will apply to companies with a total turnover of EUR 750 million worldwide and a digital turnover of EUR 50 million in the EU. The digital tax raises various questions about the justifications. Especially for the export nation Germany, it could turn out to be a dangerous boomerang.

How to Cite

Sievering, Oliver. 2022. “Reflections on the Proposals of the European Commission for a Digital Tax”. Central and Eastern European EDem and EGov Days 335 (March):251-59.


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