Split payments is one of the methods that European countries with a considerable VAT gap use to tackle it. Across the EU, the VAT gap in the EU in 2016 was reported to be €147.1bn.
Poland introduced voluntary VAT split payments in July 2018. Since then around 25% of taxpayers have adopted this payment method. This equates to 400,000 out of 1.6 million taxpayers currently active on the Polish market. However, only 9% of the total amount of VAT has been paid using this mechanism since last year.
The VAT split payment mechanism means that the amount of commodities or supplies for consideration is being paid to the taxable person into one account, while the VAT amount charged in the underline transaction is deposited in a different bank account designated for this purpose.
On May 16, 2019 the Ministry of Finance published draft legislation which intends to introduce mandatory split payments from September 1, 2019. Poland received temporary approval, valid until 2022, from the European Commission on February 18, 2019, subject to introducing some limitations to the mandate. Consequently, split payments will apply to (and substitute) reverse charge transactions and those with purchaser tax liability; it will also apply to 150 selected goods and services, such as car parts, coal, fuel, waste and some electronic equipment. In addition, to comply with the mandate, the value of the transaction must exceed the threshold of PLN 15,000 (approximately €3,500). The Ministry of Finance reported that the selected industries are those where state tax administration observes the highest tax avoidance.
Since July 2018, taxpayers complained that the way in which split payment is regulated influences their financial liquidity. The bank account to which VAT is paid belongs to the taxpayer, however, its freedom to spend this money is currently limited to paying VAT. With the planned amendments, taxpayers will be able to pay other state charges from the VAT accounts, such as social security charges and other tax liabilities including income tax, excise and customs duties.
Split payments will also apply to non-resident companies subject to VAT in Poland, who are settling transactions by means of bank transfers, and are otherwise in scope of the mandate as per the general rules. Based on the Ministry of Finance estimates, there are around 550 such companies, 150 of which do not even have a local bank account. Complying with the local split payment regime will be more of a challenge for these companies.
Sanctions for non-compliance may affect both the supplier and buyer. Suppliers may be charged with 100% of the VAT due for not including a mandatory statement on the invoice which is subject to split payment (in Polish: “mechanizm podzielonej płatności”). Buyers may be penalized in the same way for not paying VAT to the VAT account, alternatively they may be deprived of the right for tax deduction.
Split payment was either introduced or is being considered in three other European countries. Italy and Romania both introduced a split payment mandate for certain businesses from 2015 and 2018 respectively. In the UK, public consultations were held throughout 2018 with a view to introducing split payments. From April 2019 Romania withdrew mandatory split payments, following the November 2018 order of the European Commission which concluded that the mandate is disproportionate. It will now maintain a voluntary split payment regime.