FAVOURABLE TAX REGIME PROVIDED UNDER PATENT BOX DECREE ALSO APPLIES TO SOFTWARE UPDATES
With resolution no. 28/E the Agency responds affirmatively with regard to a query put forward by a computer software company concerning the possibility of applying the favourable tax regime provided under the Patent Box Decree to incomes deriving from activities involving the concession of use of the product, where such activities involve implementation, update, personalization and customization of the software, considering that the norm compulsorily requires the undertaking of research and development activities.
Article 1, paras 37 to 45, of the Law of 23 December 2014, no. 190 (so-called “Financial Act 2015”) provides for an optional favourable tax regime (so-called “Patent Box”) for incomes deriving from use of “software protected by copyright, patents, trademarks, designs and models, as well as processes, formulae and information concerning experience acquired in the industrial, commercial or scientific field that are legally protected” with the objective of incentivizing investments in the fields of research and development. This optional regime is regulated by Decree of the Minister for Economic Development, in concert with the Ministry for Economic Development and Finances of 30 July 2015 (so-called “Patent Box Decree”).
A company specialized in software development asked the Italian Revenue Agency for clarifications with regard to the proper identification of activities that may considered favourably from a tax standpoint; in particular, the applicant asked whether it is correct to consider subject to said favourable tax regime the activities involving initial licensing, assistance and maintenance fees, realization of so-called modifications of application software developed by the above mentioned company and registered at the Special Public Register for Computer Programmes held at the SIAE.
The Revenue Agency clarified that software protected by copyright is one of the immaterial assets which allow companies to benefit from the optional favourable tax regime. That includes all computer programs in whichever form they are expressed as long they are the original product of the intellectual creation of the author. Secondly, the Agency confirmed that the activity involving concession of use of the right to utilize immaterial assets is subject to the aforementioned regime; on this point, the Agency emphasized that in order to accede to that regime, in compliance with the so-called “nexus approach”, the company must undertake activities of development, maintenance and enrichment of the software concretely carried out via the implementation, update, personalization and customization of the software. The Agency also specified that activities like staff training, basic help desk of so-called “second level”, telephone support, the periodic fee for use of application software in the cloud, etc. – which involve a purely instrumental use of the software, that fall outside the scope of its protection – do not fall within the favourable tax regime in so far as they do not represent an exclusive use of authorial prerogative.