A New EU Country Code on the Horizon for Northern Ireland

Gabriel Pezzato
September 1, 2020

Since 31 January 2020, the UK is officially no longer part of the EU but is considered a third country to the union although EU legislation will still apply to the country until the end of 2020. Although Northern Ireland is part of the UK, the region will remain under EU VAT legislation when it comes to the supply of goods also after 1 January 2021. The EU Commission has proposed an amendment to the VAT Directive creating a new country code to be used in tax identification numbers of Northern Irish companies.

An overall obligation for EU taxpayers to use and perform supplies under an EU-approved tax ID number exists. Thus, applying EU law to supplies performed to/from Northern Ireland demands an EU-compatible VAT identification number. Currently, EU Member States use a prefix country code following the ISO 3166-1 standard that assigns the country code “GB” to the UK and Northern Ireland. 

The new prefix for Northern Irish tax ID numbers

From 1 January 2021, the indiscriminate use of the “GB” prefix in VAT numbers may pose a problem for supplies of goods to/from Northern Ireland. From that date, intra-community supplies and acquisitions of goods to/from Northern Ireland will remain in the scope of the EU VAT law. Consequently, Northern Irish taxpayers must hold a specific EU VAT number to be identified as such under the European rules. Provided that the country code “GB” will be used by the UK and assigned according to British legislation, the EU Commission has proposed a new country code “XI” to be attributed as a prefix of Northern Irish tax ID numbers.

A valid EU tax identification performs many roles, such as ensuring (or facilitating) the correct tax and customs treatment for intra-community supplies. The VIES platform, that runs the EU VAT Information Exchange System, is an example of the importance the EU gives to valid tax ID numbers. To ensure parties to a transaction can check each other’s tax ID numbers and are eligible to exemptions on intra-community supplies, the EU has established the VIES system, which will likely be the first EU mechanism directly affected by the creation of the new Northern Irish country code.

Such a proposal from the EU Commission may impact Member States’ systems. Upon adoption, the new Directive will require Member States to quickly adjust their apparatus to process “XI” invoices from January 2021. Countries operating some degree of continuous transaction controls, such as Italy, Hungary, and Spain, may be expected to update their platforms to comply with the amendment.

Impact on accounting and ERP systems

If passed, the proposal will impact taxpayers’ accounting and ERP systems which will need to process and recognize the “XI” country code in issued and received invoices as a Northern Irish indicator. Moreover, many systems allow the use of user-assigned country codes in customized transaction flows. User-assigned country codes are ISO codes that are freely assigned by users and used at their discretion, for example flows between supported and non-supported countries within an ERP system. So far, “XI” has been a user-assigned country code. Consequently, the proposal may force many IT departments to change internal policies regulating the use of user-assigned country codes.

Tax departments must also be aware of the tax treatment of “XI” invoices, given that EU VAT law won’t apply to supplies of services performed to/from Northern Ireland, but only to supplies of goods. Consequently, companies must create internal flows to deter the use or validation of the “XI” country code in supplies of services if unaccompanied by a valid “GB” country code.

The Council of the European Union is expected to deliberate about the proposal next on 9 September. 

Take Action

To keep up to date with the changing VAT compliance landscape, download Trends: Continuous Global VAT Compliance and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to stay ahead of regulatory news and other updates.

Sign up for Email Updates

Stay up to date with the latest tax and compliance updates that may impact your business.

Author

Gabriel Pezzato

Gabriel Pezzato is a Regulatory Counsel at Sovos. Based in Stockholm and originally from Brazil, Gabriel’s background is in tax, corporate and administrative law. Gabriel earned a Law degree and a specialization degree in Tax Law in his home country and has a master’s degree in International and European Tax Law from Uppsala University (Sweden).
Share This Post

LATAM VAT & Fiscal Reporting
May 20, 2020
Sovos Acquires Taxweb, Extends Tax Determination Capabilities in World’s Most Challenging Compliance Landscape

Earlier this month Sovos announced its second acquisition of 2020, completing our solution for Brazil with an unparalleled offering that solves tax compliance in the place where it is most challenging to do so.  Too many companies doing business in Brazil have been burdened by managing multiple point solutions for continuous transaction controls (CTCs), tax […]

Sales & Use Tax United States
November 24, 2020
Dissecting the Rhode Island Economic Nexus Sales Tax

Prior to the South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. decision, Rhode Island had already enacted legislation related to economic nexus and remote sellers. Effective August 17, 2017, remote sellers needed to comply with certain registration or notice requirements depending on whether the seller qualified as a “non-collecting retailer,” a “retail sale facilitator,” or a “referrer.” Depending […]

Sales & Use Tax United States
November 23, 2020
Yes, there are Sales Taxes, and the Impact on Holiday Shopping is Real

How much can I expect to spend on holiday shopping this year? Well, that may depend on where you live and shop. You see, your location can play a huge role in dictating the final price of an item. This is due to the fluctuation in sales tax rates across the country at both the […]

Sales & Use Tax United States
November 23, 2020
Basics of the Indiana Sales Tax Nexus

The South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. Supreme Court decision allowed states to require sellers with no physical presence to collect and remit sales tax if they have an economic nexus with the taxing state. Indiana responded by enacting an economic nexus law like the one upheld in that case. Indiana HEA 1129 was challenged by […]

Sales & Use Tax United States
November 23, 2020
Alaska Sales Tax Nexus Details

While there is no state-wide Alaska sales tax, numerous local cities and boroughs have their own sales tax ordinances. After the South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. decision, several of these local governments established the Alaska Remote Seller Sales Tax Commission and adopted the Uniform Alaska Remote Seller Sales Tax Code to have a system to […]

Tax Compliance United States
November 20, 2020
Is it Time to Level the Tax Playing Field when it Comes to Food?

By Kelsey O’Gorman & Denise Hatem In the United States, food is the third-largest expense for lower-income households, after housing and transportation. For higher-income households, food ranks fifth, following housing, transportation, pension contributions and health care. While income disparity can skew percentages of spending on essential items such as food and housing, there are also […]