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Monday, 02 March 2020

Doctoral research by Kimberly Van Sande - Digitax

The world has changed considerably in the last 100 years, especially in the last decades as a result of the digital evolution. The digital evolution seems to be accelerating and has a wide range of tax implications that thwart both direct and indirect taxation. Many countries appear to be struggling with the speed of digital evolution and its tax implications. Tax systems in general are still based on the economic reality of a century ago1, which means that digital revenues risk escaping an adequate qualification in civil law, intellectual property law and tax law. One of the central questions is whether international, European and national income tax rules remain 'fit for their purpose' in the age of digital evolution, where new and often immaterial profit generators are being put forward. Physical components seem to be losing their relevance and current tax law appears insufficient to capture income resulting from the digital revolution.  

In this context, legal doctrine worries about the specific challenges that artificial intelligence poses to tax law (e.g. robots in the labour market, automatic cars, chatbots). How will income resulting from artificial intelligence be qualified and allocated under current civil, intellectual property and tax law? Is there a need to modernise traditional tax concepts? Which tax concepts can be developed to contribute to fair taxation? Should artificial intelligence be considered as a separate taxpayer, and if so, what should a tax on artificial intelligence look like?

This study examines the collective term of artificial intelligence, how artificial intelligence would be qualified under current civil and intellectual property law, and how income resulting from artificial intelligence would be qualified and imputed under current tax law. Finally, this research tests the tax treatment of artificial intelligence under current law and in the future, against comparative tax law and philosophical views in law (among others, Adam Smith, Bentham Hanneke Du Preez, Nozick and Rawls).

This doctoral research is conducted by Kimberly Van Sande, supervised by Anne Van de Vijver en Bruno Peeters and started in November 2019.


1 OECD (2015), Addressing the Tax Challenges of the Digital Economy, Action 1 - 2015 Final Report, OECD Publishing, Paris, 11.

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