Taxation of Computer Software: Need for Clear Guidance in the UN Model Tax Convention
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Sebastien Babou Diasso
Developing countries pay enormous sums of money for the right to use intellectual property such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc. Such payments are known as ‘royalties’. The scale is enormous, and just 27 South Centre Member States paid $45 billion in 2020 as royalties. Some proportion of these payments are for the right to use computer software. Developing countries can gain significant revenues if the United Nations can provide clear international tax guidelines that payments for the right to use computer software should be taxable as royalties. This Policy Brief provides the world’s first country-level revenue estimates for 34 of the South Centre’s Member States and finds that they could collect potentially $1 billion in tax revenues in 2020 had they been able to tax payments for the use of computer software as royalties.
Direct Monetary Costs of Intellectual Property for Developing Countries
A changing balance for TRIPS?
It is startling that almost no discussion exists on the direct monetary costs for countries of the IP international regulatory framework. Indeed, on top of the inherent costs on ´access´ or ´learning´ abilities, there are some important tangible, measurable, direct monetary costs to countries. These costs are the financial payments that occur simply for the use of intellectual property. These payments are relevant in any discussion on the role of IP in the context of development.
An overview of some findings is presented in this report, with the aim of promoting an assessment and discussion at the WTO and other fora whenever there is a consideration of the impacts of the IP international regulatory framework, notably the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) in individual countries.
Comments on Discussion Draft: Taxation of Software Payments as Royalties
South Centre Tax Initiative
The South Centre supports the proposal being discussed in the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (UN Tax Committee) to tax payments for computer software as royalties. This will help developing countries more effectively tax the digitalized economy and will bring clarity to the application of existing bilateral tax treaties.
Comments on Discussion Draft: Possible Changes to the United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention Between Developed and Developing Countries Concerning Inclusion of software payments in the definition of royalties
The South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI) offers its comments on the discussion draft on inclusion of software payments in the definition of royalties. As is well known, this is an important issue that developing countries have been fighting for, for a while now. The SCTI supports the proposed change which seeks to insert the phrase “computer software” in article 12(3) of the United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention Between Developed and Developing Countries. The COVID-19 pandemic adds special urgency to resolving this long-pending issue as revenue from software payments made from developing countries continues to increase.