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Amid rising tension between the United States and France over the Digital Services Tax (DST), this article propositions the imposition of a Digital Consumption Tax, rather than the gross-receipts DST. The Digital Consumption Tax is not a new tax. It is a consumption tax (i.e. Value-Added Tax, or VAT, in Europe and sales tax in the United States) that is imposed on digital transactions. Such consumption tax would be applied on the seemingly free interaction between Facebook (and other companies alike) and its Users. This interaction, under which Users gain access to the Facebook platform for ‘free’ – should be treated as a barter exchange, where Users pay a deemed monthly subscription fee for the right to access the platform, and Facebook pays a deemed royalty-like payment to Users for the right to use data collected on them by such platform, and for the right to show targeted advisements on the platform. The main proposition of this article is that these deemed payments – the deemed subscription fee and the deemed royalty-like fee – are equal and offset each other, resulting in the current ‘free’ interactions that are taking place in the market. The immediate implications is that general principles of consumption tax that apply to barter exchanges should result in a ‘new’, uncollected, tax liability to Facebook, because the deemed subscription fee (as received by Facebook) should be subject to consumption tax (VAT or sales tax) in the country or state where service is consumed – where the individual User resides.


Reprinted from Intertax, Vol 48, 2020, 538-543, with permission of Kluwer Law International

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