Digital Signage – TAX and Licences

There has been much discussion and controversy lately about taxation of digital signage screens. Many countries, particularly in Europe have a licensing or taxation policy for televisions.

Some of these licensing schemes have been around since TV began (namely the UK’s BBC TV licence) and are designed to pay for public service broadcasting.

However, there has been much controversy in recent times with taxation systems in some countries, such as Italy, who are targeting digital signage devices (and in particular outdoor digital signage) with the tax. Currently the tax stands at Euro 100 ($120) for each screen.

The problem with this type of tax scheme is that it is hard to distinguish between digital signage and TV. And with the growing use of outdoor TV systems coinciding with the growth of outdoor digital signage it was decided to tax all screens regardless of use.

Italian police, for example, are tasked with ensuring any outdoor TV device has had the tax paid and as it is impossible in many cases to distinguish between outdoor digital signage screens and outdoor TVs.

They also argue that whilst a screen may only currently be used for digital signage but could easily be changed to display television broadcasts during events such as the World cup.

In the UK however, the rules are a lot more balanced. The TV licence fee is only payable if the equipment can receive broadcasted TV images – so the screen has to either be connected to an aerial or a cable box this allows digital signage to be installed without the need of a licence.

However, the UK licensing scheme is quite unique and many more countries may adopt the flat tax scheme as used by Italy, especially as the demand for outdoor spaces continues to grow (which it will do during event like the World Cup and Olympics) meaning outdoor digital signage could soon become more expensive.

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