Tax law, case file PB3/GM-8213-12/06/144

May 21st, 2006, Tomasz Rychlicki

In the letter of 10 March 2006, file PB3/GM-8213-12/06/144, published in Biuletyn Skarbowy of 2006, no 2, pp. 21-22, the Undersecretary of State of the Ministry of Finance gave the official interpretation regarding tax consequences associated with the use of free software programs, addressed to the Directors of all the Tax Offices and Chambers. This letter was issued in order to ensure uniform application of the law under article 14 § 1 point 2 of the Tax Code, to convey an explanation of article 12(1) point 2 of the Polish Act of 15 February 1992 on the Legal Entities’ Income Tax – LEIT – (in Polish: Ustawa o podatku dochodowym od osób prawnych) consolidated text published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2000, No. 54, item 654 with subsequent amendments, on the tax consequences associated with the use of free software.

Art. 12. [General notion of revenue] 1. Revenues, subject to paragraphs 3 and 4 and Articles 13 and 14, shall be, in particular:
2) the value of things or rights received free of charge or partially free of charge, as well as the value of other free-of-charge or partially free-of-charge performances, with the exception of performances linked with utilization of fixed assets received by budgetary establishments, subsidiary undertakings of budgetary entities, public utility companies 100% owned by local government bodies or their associations from the State Treasury, local government units or their association for gratuitous management or use;

In many cases during the economic activity, taxpayers benefit for purposes of the activities of the publicly available and free of charge computer programs that are available for instance via the Internet for all users. Although most of the software for these operating systems is free, however there are exceptions in the form of commercial software. The rule, however, is that the use of such programs are not related to any fees for their purchase, or license fees.

Provision of Article 12(1) point 2 of the Act on the Legal Entities’ Income Tax recognizes as revenues, the value of obtained free-of-charge or the value of partially free-of-charge things and rights. However, article 12 (5 – 6a) of the Act on the Legal Entities’ Income Tax sets, the value of unpaid or partially-paid performances and the value of free or partially-free acquired things or rights, which are the subject of income tax.

5. The monetary value of things or rights received free of charge shall be determined in accordance with market prices applicable in trading of things or rights of the same type and quality, in particular taking into account their condition, degree of wear, as well as the time and place of obtaining them.

5a. The value of partially paid for things or rights constituting taxpayer’s revenues shall be the difference between the value of those things or rights, determined in accordance with the principles laid down in paragraph 5, and the consideration paid by the taxpayer. The provision of Article 14.3 shall apply, as appropriate.

6. The value of gratuitous performances shall be determined in the following manner:
1) if the performance concerns services included in the commercial activities of the performing party – at prices applied to other recipients;
2) if the performance concerns purchased services – at purchasing prices;
3) if the performance concerns letting the use of premises – at the equivalent of the rent that would have been due under a potential lease contract for those premises;
4) in other cases – in accordance with market prices applied in the performance of services or letting the use of things or rights of the same type and quality, taking into account their condition, degree of wear, as well as the time and place of letting them for use.

6a. The value of partially paid for performances constituting taxpayer’s revenues shall be the difference between the value of those performances, determined in accordance with the principles laid down in paragraph 6, and the consideration paid by the taxpayer. The provision of Article 14.3 shall apply, as appropriate.

The provision of article 12(1) point 2 of the Act on the Legal Entities’ Income Tax should be taken together with article 12(6) of the LEIT, which defines how the value of income from unpaid performances is determined. This is established case-by-case. For instance it may be:

  • the price charged to other customers – if a subject of a performance are services being a part of the business of an entity that is making the performance,
  • the market price that is used for the same kind of rights, taking into consideration, in particular, degree of wear, as well as the time and place of letting them for use – other than those referred to aticle 12(6) points 1-3 of the LEIT.

In the case of rights obtained free of charge, the income is determined on the basis of prices used in the market turnover of rights of the same kind, in particular, their condition and degree of use and the time and place of such use. Tax law provisions establishing the value of tax revenue for the free performances received, do not foresee a situation where appropriate performance is free for all stakeholders.

Article 12(6) of the LEIT includes cases in which there is an opportunity to compare the value of gratuitous performances to other pecuniary performances that were made by the taxpayer. The possibility of determining the value of “comparable” performances of given kind, in the case of the free software that is available to all on equal (free-of-charge/gratuitous) basis, can not be performed, and thus there is no basis for determining the value of income.

If certain performances (including the transfer of rights) are inherently free-of-charge to all taxpayers, and not an individual case that would be applicable to the individual entity, it is not allowed to establish tax revenues in connection with the occurrence of such events, as referred to article 12(1) point 2 of the LEIT. This does not mean, however, that in assessing the possible tax consequences associated with the use of such software, there is no need to examine all the circumstances connected with it. Each case therefore requires individual analysis.

These explanation of the tax consequences associated with the use of the free software, apply as appropriate to taxpayers of income tax of individuals engaged in non-agricultural economic activity (art. 14 ust. 2 pkt 8 ustawy o podatku dochodowym od osób fizycznych).