According to this page, this will include the following:
- Premium account registration
- Purchases from the Land Store
- Land use fees (tier)
- Private Region fees
- Land auctions
So is Linden Lab being very nasty with the poor European users, that suddenly saw their expenses going up, without explanation (not even an official blog post!)? Is LL tired of the growth in Europe? Are they afraid that content creators and landbarons in Europe are too successful and wish the rest of the world to get a chance to catch up?
Not at all.
As the Wikipedia so clearly states,
Following changes introduced on 1 July 2003, (under Directive 2002/38/EC), non-EU businesses providing digital electronic commerce and entertainment products and services to EU countries are also required to register with the tax authorities in the relevant EU member state, and to collect VAT on their sales at the appropriate rate, according to the location of the purchaser. Alternatively, under a special scheme, non-EU businesses may register and account for VAT on only one EU member state. This produces distortions as the rate of VAT is that of the member state of registration, not where the customer is located, and an alternative approach is therefore under negotiation, whereby VAT is charged at the rate of the member state where the purchaser is located.
So Linden Lab is just really complying with European Law. And yes, they have no chance but to comply, if they wish to keep those 4 or 5 million users!
What does this mean for the European crowd? Basically, if you're unlucky enough to be employed (or unemployed), you're going to pay more for having fun in SL — more than your fellow non-EU residents, at least. There will be an assymetry between, say, "cheap" US-based landbarons and more expensive EU-based landbarons. But on the other hand, if you're self-employed or a company (even a one-person company!), this will be a blessing. For the ones unaware on how VAT works, here is a very short explanation (you can read it up on Wikipedia or any other similar site):
VAT is only charged to the end customer. If you provide services and/or goods, you charge VAT, and your own suppliers charge VAT to you. As a service/goods provider, you can subtract one from the other, and have a running account with your local revenue service. In effect, you only pay VAT to the State if you provide more services than the ones you buy (most successful businesses will, of course, be in that situation).
Thus, for a company or a self-employed individual, it's good to be able to get VAT charged to you, since you can now use that VAT to deduct from your regular (monthly, quarterly, or yearly) accounting with the revenue service. More interesting than that: you can now file your expenses with Second Life (assuming you're drawing an income from providing services in SL!) as operation costs, thus, this means less income to be taxed on personal revenue.
Getting billed with VAT is thus a double blessing — less VAT to pay, less revenue taxes to pay.
For end-users — ie. employees (or unemployed people), retirees, etc. — things are quite more unfair. They cannot deduct VAT from the services they acquire; they cannot use expenses with Second Life as "operation costs" whatsoever, it's a service they're buying for their pleasure and enjoyment, and thus taxed as a "luxury" item (between 15-25%, depending on the EU country you're in).
What does this mean for the regular resident? Well, if you have little land, you have no choice really — Second Life will be more expensive for you. Very likely, European residents will simply tier down to Basic and pay in L$ for plots on private islands run by American landbarons. On the other hand, if your business (content or land) is considerable — ie. earning more than €2000 or so per month — it's very well worth becoming self-employed, and start cutting down on taxes!
And finally, as some of you might have noticed, Linden Lab has opened their offices in the UK (Brighton), headed by Babbage Linden. Now that they have European offices, they have to be more careful to comply with European legislation. They're a multinational now! (well, technically, trans-national...) So this means that SL is going to be a very, very complex place to "live" in :)