Potential implications of the Digital Services Tax for companies

Many of those who set up a company with the assistance of London Registrars may be interested to learn more about the UK’s coming Digital Services Tax (DST), which – while not yet in force – is expected to apply from 1 April 2020 to profitable high-tech businesses making sales in Britain.

What is the Digital Services Tax?

First announced in the 2018 Budget, the DST is a new 2% tax that will be levied on the revenues of search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces that derive value from UK users.

While the obvious targets for such a tax are American tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Google and Airbnb, examples have been found of other companies that are likely to be subject to the DST.

The European Commission was the first entity to propose a DST in response to the increasing digitalisation of the economies of the European Union (EU). However, the UK is set to become one of the first territories to implement the tax in its domestic legislation.

France has already approved a temporary DST, levying a tax of 3% on the turnover of companies with digital business in the country that have digital business models and revenues exceeding €750 million globally and €25 million in France.

Meanwhile, in the UK, DST will apply to qualifying firms for which a double threshold has been reached, of £25 million annual UK turnover and £500 million annual turnover worldwide. A 2% charge will be imposed on the UK revenues of the aforementioned ‘specific digital business models’ of search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces.

Is your own company likely to be subject to this tax?

Those who have set up a company and are curious as to whether they may be affected by DST should note that it is applicable to revenues rather than profits. This differs from corporation tax protocols, where tax is charged on profits instead of turnover.

Put simply, a digital business that generates more than £500 million turnover worldwide is likely to find that its UK trade is within the scope of the DST; however, the first £25 million of its UK sales will be tax-exempt.

Will non-UK incorporated and/or non-UK resident companies be affected?

The UK’s approach to the new tax is narrower than that applied in France, with the provision of a social media platform, search engine and online marketplace being regarded as a taxable business activity for the purposes of DST.

A non-UK resident company providing digital services to its UK customers who use the company’s services online from the UK will therefore be within the DST’s scope in the same way as a UK-resident firm.

How are gambling businesses impacted?

In principle, it is thought that DST should apply to gambling businesses. This is in light of the European Commission specifically clarifying that neither online gambling nor gambling companies should be excluded from the legislative framework for DST.

Then, there is the matter of the UK, EU and US

The British government has said that it will only apply DST when an appropriate long-term solution – for example, an international agreement – is in place. However, it is far from certain as to when this may happen.

Finally, the strong opposition to the French DST voiced by US trade representative Robert Lighthizer – who complained that the tax unfairly targeted American firms – could also have very serious implications for the UK DST, perhaps even ultimately leading to the tax being abandoned altogether.

With the UK set to depart from the EU, hostility from Washington would seem especially pertinent as it is Lighthizer who the UK would need to negotiate with for a future trade deal.

Are you looking to set up  a company and benefit from the highest standard of business support services now and into the 2020s? If so, the London Registrars team would be happy to receive your enquiry about any area of our wide-ranging expertise.

9 September 2019

A quick guide to the ‘three lines of defence’ risk governance framework

As a user of company compliance and business address services like those provided by us here at London Registrars, you may have previously encountered references to the ‘three lines of defence’ model. This is a well-established governance framework for risk management and will help your organisation to set out clear roles and responsibilities in this vital area.

The ‘three lines of defence’ model was developed as a result of concerns about the potentially greater risk of accidents in organisations where additional layers of redundancy and safeguards are added.

It was feared that such extra layers could make systems unduly complex, thereby increasing the inevitability of failure. Firms implementing the ‘three lines of defence’ model therefore do so with the aim of defining clear roles and responsibilities, and maintaining separation between those roles, to help prevent accidents.

Defining the three lines of defence

The model sets out three distinct groups within an organisation that are necessary if risk is to be effectively managed. The aim is to provide a simple and effective way to enhance risk management communication through the clarification of essential roles and duties.

The roles and responsibilities are spread across first, second and third lines of defence. The first line of defence concerns functions that own and manage risk.  The second line of defence relates to functions that monitor risk and compliance. Finally, the functions that  make up the third line of defence are those that provide independent assurance on risk management.

The board and senior managers are the primary stakeholders served by these lines. Crucially, the three lines are closely aligned in their work, partnering with each other to ensure the strongest possible risk management.

How can your company ensure the success of this model?

The ‘three lines of defence’ model is as much about the wider system as it is about the individual lines. To implement this risk management model successfully within your own firm, it is vital to freely share information, coordinate activities and keep stakeholders informed.

Information must flow dynamically across the three lines if your organisation is to achieve the best possible results from this model. However, the exact way each line of defence works will depend on what suits your organisation.

For more comprehensive corporate governance, risk and compliance support, and business address services, do not hesitate to contact the London Registrars team.

16 August 2019


Risk Coalition – Draft Principles and Guidance

Consultation draft principles and guidance set out by the Risk Coalition

In early July, the Risk Coalition published consultation draft principles and guidance for board risk committees and risk functions in the UK’s financial services sector, a development that may be of interest to many of those using our UK company formation services here at London Registrars.

The Risk Coalition is a network of not-for-profit professional bodies and membership organisations seeking to raise the standards of UK risk governance and risk management.

What purposes is the draft guidance meant to serve? 

It is intended that the draft guidance will provide coherent and authoritative principles-based guidance on good practice for board risk committees and risk functions.

Other aims of the draft guidance include the development of a common understanding of the purpose and remit of board risk committees and risk functions, as well as the provision of a benchmark against which board risk committees and risk functions can be objectively assessed.

What is contained within the guidance?

The guidance consists of two parts, and assumes that organisations operate a risk management model based on three lines of defence.

The first part of the guidance concentrates on setting out reasonable expectations for a mature board risk committee, by defining eight key principles, alongside supporting guidance on how they may be met. These principles cover such areas as the role of the board risk committee and board accountability, board risk committee composition and membership, risk culture and remuneration, risk management and internal control systems and risk information and reporting.

The second part of the guidance, meanwhile, addresses the role and responsibilities of the chief risk officer and second line risk function.

A consultation of relevance well beyond financial services firms

While the draft guidance’s scope is limited to financial services, the Risk Coalition hopes the principles it establishes will be regarded as pertinent to other sectors, with consultation responses welcomed from those outside financial services.

The consultation will close on 20 September 2019, and the Risk Coalition expects to publish a final version of the guidance in December 2019.

If are you presently seeking out the most appropriate UK company formation services for your own business, simply email, call or fax us today and our company incorporation experts would be pleased to discuss your requirements.

15 August 2019

First prison sentence arising from the GDPR should remind firms of their responsibilities

In the first case of its kind, prosecution by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has led to an employee being handed a jail term due to their misuse of customers’ personal information. It is the latest story that should highlight to organisations the importance of paying heed to the new data protection regime under the much-publicised General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Continue reading

UK ‘porn block’ to take effect in July

The UK will shortly implement a part of the Digital Economy Act 2017 that requires some websites to verify the ages of its users. This age-verification requirement has been widely referred to as the “porn block”, and is finally set to come into force on 15th July this year.

Continue reading