In some jurisdictions, fees for technical assistance or other services such as engineering, management or consulting services provided by non-resident enterprises are treated as a special category of income and are subject to different tax treatment from other services income.
There is no consistent concept of what constitutes “technical services” or which services are subject to special rules. In some countries, technical services are services which involve merely the application of specialist knowledge such as knowhow or engineering expertise; in others, the services must be connected with the transfer of knowledge or expertise (sometimes called “technical assistance").
Administrative guidance is found in several South American countries which apply special treatment to “technical services” or “technical assistance”. In Brazil, for example, technical services are described as “the work, endeavour or undertaking the execution of which depends on specialized technical knowledge by its provider”, while technical assistance is interpreted to mean “the permanent assistance provided by the lender of a process or secret formula to the lessee, by means of technicians, drawings, instructions sent to the country and other similar services, which will allow the effective use of the lent process or formula”. Colombia also considers “technical assistance” to be the transfer of knowledge to third parties, and “technical services” to be the direct application of technical knowledge or skills by an operator without transfer of knowledge.
Countries are not consistent in what special treatment is afforded to fees for such services. The special treatment of technical fees may, for example, take the form of an interim withholding tax. which does not apply to income from other services. In
Austria, non-final withholding tax applies to income from business consultancy (provision of expert advice such as activities of market researchers, managing consultants and market analysts) and technical consultancy (show how, often packaged with transfer of knowhow). This withholding does not apply to other services.