Exploitation and taxation of image rights. Key takeaways from recent guidance issued by the Italian tax authorities

The use of image rights contracts has become increasingly popular with sportspersons and entertainers. Typically, such agreements seek to regulate a very wide range of situations, encompassing the use and exploitation of an individual’s name, voice, likeness and appearance, as well as preventing any abuse of an individual’s image by third parties. From a tax perspective, image rights contracts allow distinguishing between the portion of payments for the provision of professional services and payments for using and exploiting image rights.

In Italy, over the last few decades, a significant number of commercial agreements for the exploitation of image rights have been negotiated with sportspersons, artists and other celebrities, so that numerous enquiries have been commenced by the Italian Revenue Agency (also “IRA” or the “Agency”) aimed at investigating and challenging schemes used to save income tax.

The article (attached) – written for and originally published in the June issue of the Sports Law & Taxation journal seeks to provide insights on the applicable tax rules in Italy of income derived from the exploitation of image rights by non-resident sportspersons, through a comparative analysis of the position held by the Italian tax authorities in Ruling No. 139/2021 dealing with image rights payments to an artist.