The recent popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has captivated investors, governments and tax authorities. An NFT is a digital asset that represents real-world objects such as a piece of digital art, an audio clip, an online game or anything else. NFTs are purchased and sold online and are typically encoded with the same software as cryptocurrencies. They are stored in the blockchain to authenticate and track ownership of the NFT.
NFTs are generally one of a kind and can fetch tens of millions of dollars for a single NFT. The total market value of NFT sales skyrocketed into the billions in 2021. The high values and increase in sales have inspired several governments to introduce VAT legislation to define and tax these digital assets.
Multiple countries have announced specific VAT measures for the treatment of NFTs:
Spain: Spain is the first country in the EU to apply VAT to NFTs. The General Directorate of Taxes in Spain issued a ruling stating the supply of NFTs is an electronically supplied service subject to the standard VAT rate of 21%.
Belgium: The Belgian Finance Minister confirmed that the supply of NFTs is an electronically supplied service subject to the standard VAT rate of 21%.
Norway: The Norwegian tax administration defines the supply of NFTs as an electronically supplied service. It’s important to note that the creation or mining of an NFT will not attract VAT in contrast to a sale.
Washington State (U.S.): The Washington Department of Revenue is expected to announce that NFTs are subject to the state’s sales and business taxes as a digital product. This ruling will make Washington the first state to issue sales tax policies on NFTs.
In other countries, such as Switzerland, the supply of NFTs is generally considered an electronic service; however, there is a Swiss VAT exemption for electronic works of art directly sold by a creator that may apply to NFTs. VAT treatment of works of art may create implications for tax authorities when classifying NFTs.
Another area of VAT concern surrounding NFT transactions is the place of supply. Place of supply for VAT purposes typically requires buyers and sellers to exchange domicile information such as a billing address. NFT transactions conducted through blockchain can avoid sharing personal information with intermediaries via an anonymous ‘wallet,’ which may lead to privacy concerns and other issues for tax authorities as they attempt to bring these transactions within the scope of VAT.
The VAT treatment of NFTs is still in its infancy and will continue to evolve alongside the digital asset industry. More insight into the classification of NFTs and the determination of the place of supply of such transactions will come as more tax authorities issue rulings analysing these unique digital assets.
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