3D printing taxation issues and impacts

Technology is turning the world upside down for manufacturing and distribution

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New 3D printing business relationships and transactions will revolve around the ownership and use of intellectual property (IP). So national and international tax authorities’ focus on IP is expected to intensify in a 3D setting.


Companies worldwide are looking to get closer to customers and faster to market using 3D printing. But unanticipated value-added taxes (VAT) can hurt profit margins.

3D printing could flatten global supply chains. But few comparable models exist in current manufacturing and distribution settings to calculate transfer pricing and associated taxes in a 3D world.

A 3D product’s value comes more from its IP than from production costs. But tax authorities in different countries could disagree on the appropriate split of tangible/intangible values, resulting in double taxation.

Companies will rely more on digital technology to distribute products across the world. But with fewer final products crossing borders, governments could see their revenues from customs duties fall – and try to recoup them elsewhere.

Production locations multiply in 3D-enabled supply chains. But several location-related tax issues could emerge, including proliferating permanent establishments, exit taxes and substantial contribution provisos.

Ask yourself:

  • What will be the right characterization of your income from 3D IP?
  • Would your VAT obligations proliferate in a 3D-enabled supply chain?
  • How would 3D printing change the global footprint of your functions, risks and assets?
  • What structure could your company use to ensure against double-taxation?
  • Where are the taxable events in your new 3D supply chain, if not at customs control?
  • Where might your company begin making money via 3D printing, how, and how will it be taxed?


"The taxation of goods and services has always been grounded in the physical movement of things or the provision of services — and that model is exactly what digital printing will disrupt absolutely."

Channing Flynn
Global Technology Industry Leader, Tax Services, EY