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The Tax Administration argued that the new tax was created to adapt the existing one to the development of technologies in the advertisement sector.
Digital press operators argued that this new stamp duty would have adverse affects on digital press advertising and that they were not given due notice regarding the tax and were only made aware of it following publication of the annoucement. They considered the new measure to be “dangerous, absurd and incomprehensible”.
They considered that the new tax will be greatly prejudicial to the online media sector since advertising is their main source of income.
Consequently, the tax would cause the insolvency for the majority of the digital press outlets. They also criticised the huge administrative work that the new tax would entail since they would have the obligation to file monthly statements for the new tax and make monthly payments.
They would also have to advance the payment of the tax even if the advertisement fees are not collected yet which would apply great pressure on organisational cash flow. Additionally, it is expected that the advertisers would probably not accept to bear the cost of the new stamp duty and would ask for its amount to be deducted from the media’s fees.
Some media companies stated that they will have to reduce the number of staff in order to compensate the cost of the new tax. Others stated that they will have to delocalise their media outside ofMorocco in order to avoid this additional cost.
Another arguments from the digital media operators are that this process would involve unfair competition with non-Moroccan digital press operators. They argued that local advertisers would prefer to advertise on non-Moroccan digital platform or social networks in order to avoid the stamp duty while advertisement on Facebook or Google was already 50 to 100 times less expensive than advertising on local digital media.
According to media outlets, Google and Facebook already absorbed 70 per cent of local advertisements
and the new tax would likely increase the said percentage. Furthermore, advertising on non-Moroccan
digital media sites allows for the avoidance of 20 per cent VAT which is applicable to advertising on local digital media.
Further to the protests from the digital media sector, a meeting was held between organisations and the Tax Administration. The meeting was constructive.
The Tax Administration admitted that there were some discrepancies in the interpretation of the new measure mainly because some of the words used in the Arabic version of the Budget Law (Arabic and Berber are the official languages in Morocco) were not precisely reflected in the French version of the Budget Law (even though French is not the official language in Morocco, the majority of laws and regulations are published in Arabic and French. Furthermore, French is the most used language by the Moroccan Tax Administration).
Since the Budget Law can only be amended through another law, the Tax Administration accepted to publish a “clarification statement” to clear the confusion generated by the initial wording of the law. The Tax Administration was receptive and published the clarification statement explaining that the new stamp duty would only apply to advertising via streaming and web TV, which includes advertising on YouTube.
Advertising on websites through banners without any live streaming (as per digital press) will therefore be exempted from the said tax.
Local digital media operators stated that the Tax Administration response was satisfactory nevertheless they confirmed that they will still try to have the stamp duty revoked, including for advertisement on television and cinema. Media companies hope that the Budget Law for the year 2019 will abrogate the stamp duty on all forms of advertisement on any kind of platform.
Jaafar Laidi holds a Maîtrise en Droit Privé from Hassan II. University (Casablanca) and a Diplôme d´Études Supérieures Spécialisées in International Business Law from the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis (France). Mr Laidi is a qualified lawyer in Morocco. In 2001 he joined the Arthur Andersen Casablanca office, which merged with Ernst & Young in 2004. He was promoted to the role of Manager in Ernst & Young in 2005 and has focussed his career on Corporate, Real Estate and Labour Law. Mr Laidi has also worked on projects concerning the public sector (administrative concessions, tourism development projects, etc.). He is a fluent speaking of Arabic, English, French and Spanish. In 2005 Mr Laidi was appointed Legal Manager of the Garrigues office in Casablanca and continues in this capacity.
Written by Jaafar Laidi
The Moroccan Budget Law for 2018 surprised digital press operators with a new tax applicable to digital advertising on the internet. Moroccan tax administration extended an existing 5 per cent stamp duty applicable to TV and cinema advertising to any other forms of “screen” advertising including on computers, phones and tablets.