In Italy, the discipline of transfer pricing states that in intra-group transactions between entities from different countries, where one is resident in Italy, transactions must take place on an arm’s length basis. In other words, transactions are based on freely competitive prices and under comparable circumstances.
Companies carefully treat the transfer pricing adjustments from a corporate income tax perspective. However, less attention is paid from a VAT perspective.
It’s worth mentioning that in most cases, the transfer price adjustments are profitability adjustments (rather than price) of the transactions carried out between associated companies.
However, treating the transfer pricing adjustments as outside the scope of VAT might cause problems in case of a tax authority audit and re-qualification of the transactions.
The issue of transfer pricing adjustments for VAT purposes is not expressly regulated by the Italian legislator, other EU Member State legislators or from an EU VAT legislative point of view. In the absence of an ad hoc provision, reference is made to EU and local legislation, and private and public rulings on a case-by-case analysis.
Regarding public rulings, Italian tax authorities published several responses in 2021.
With the last response to ruling no. 884 of 30 December 2021, inspired by EU Commission Working Paper n. 923 and VAT Expert Group document n. 071, Italian tax authorities clarified that to establish whether transfer pricing adjustments represent the consideration for a transaction relevant for VAT:
In the 30 December 2021 ruling (no. 884), Italian tax authorities confirmed the adjustments in question were outside the scope of VAT following the transfer pricing adjustments. It stated for subsidiaries “the recognition of an extra cost aimed at lowering their operating margin“, wasn’t “directly related to the original supplies of finished products“.
The same outcome didn’t apply to ruling no. 529 of August 6, 2021.
In this case, at the time of the sale of the goods, the seller applied a provisional price.
That provisional price was then subject to adjustment on a quarterly basis, through the so-called “Profit True Up“. The result could consist either of a claim by the transferor against the transferee or, conversely, transferor’s debt.
In this specific case, Italian tax authorities found a “direct link between the sums determined in the final balance and the supplies” and concluded by determining the relevance of the transfer price adjustments made by the taxpayer for VAT purposes.
Whether or not your business is operating in Italy, the above shows how important the potential VAT implications of transfer pricing adjustments are and the confusion for businesses on how to proceed in different scenarios.
At Sovos we’ve seen more local tax authority audits focused on clarifying if the treatment is valid from a corporate income tax and a VAT perspective.
After a review of the contracts and agreements between the companies and subsidiaries involved, it’s essential to understand whether the transfer pricing adjustments are:
Speak to our team if you have questions about the latest approach from a VAT perspective on transfer pricing adjustments in Italy, the EU and the UK and the potential solutions to mitigate any risk of audit and penalties.
The Italian Customs Authorities recently updated their national import system by applying the new European Union Customs Data Model (EUCDM). These new changes came into effect on 9 June 2022.
According to the new procedure, the old model of paper import declarations has been abolished. The import declarations are now transmitted to the Italian Customs Authorities’ information system with a digital signature.
The acceptance of a customs declaration is notified to the economic operator (that can be the importer, the Customs Agent, etc.) through a Master Reference Number (MRN), an alphanumeric string of 18 characters.
The old IM message (telematic track to be submitted at the time of the import to the Italian Customs Authorities through the Customs Telematic Service (i.e. Servizio telematico doganale (STD)) has been replaced by the following paths as defined by EU legislation:
At the time of the release of the goods, Italian Customs Authorities make available the “summary statement for accounting purposes of the customs declaration” (prospetto di riepilogo ai fini contabili della dichiarazione doganale). The summary includes all data necessary to detect customs duties, import VAT and any other charges due.
The summary mentioned above is made available to the importer and the declarant/representative in the reserved area of the single portal of Italian Customs Authorities through the “Document management – customs declarations” service.
We recommend that importers contact their Customs Agent to receive a copy of this summary for their accounting purposes.
As per Italian VAT Law, possessing a Single Administrative Document (SAD) is needed to exercise the right to recover import VAT in Italy. As the SAD is now unavailable, Italian Customs Authorities, in agreement with the Italian Revenue Agency, agreed that the new accounting summary is sufficient to allow the importer to exercise the right to recover the import VAT.
Therefore, the new accounting summary is needed to exercise your right to recover the import VAT paid to the Italian tax authorities.
Moreover, the right to recover import VAT is exercised only once the summary is reported in the Purchase VAT Ledger as per art. 25 of Italian VAT Law.
Finally, the import document must be included in your quarterly VAT return and your annual VAT return which must mirror your Italian VAT Ledgers.
To ensure your import VAT is not lost, we recommend considering that the last day to recover the import VAT, related to an import of goods carried out in 2022, is 30 April 2023.
In addition to the Summary Prospetto di riepilogo ai fini contabili della dichiarazione doganale, discussed above, economic operators will be able to receive:
Italian Customs Authorities advise customs operators to provide the Prospetto di svincolo to transporters as proof of the fulfilment of customs formalities in the case of checks.
Speak to our team if you have any questions about the latest Italian importing requirements and their impact on your business’s compliance.
On 22 July, the EU Commission opened four new infringement proceedings against the United Kingdom for allegedly breaching the 2021 Northern Ireland Protocol on conditions related to customs requirements, excise tax and VAT. The EU has brought seven proceedings against the UK over the Protocol since 2021.
Following the UK’s departure from the EU in 2020, the parties agreed that customs checkpoints on the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could lead to political instability. The Protocol was an attempt to avoid border posts between the two countries.
Instead, the Protocol ensures customs checks are done in Northern Irish ports before goods are released into the Republic of Ireland. This process effectively created a customs border on the Irish Sea. In addition, the Protocol allows Northern Ireland to follow EU rules on product standards and VAT rules related to goods.
The Protocol has been controversial in the UK, as it creates special rules for Northern Ireland that don’t apply in England, Scotland or Wales. Members of the UK’s governing Conservative Party – including Liz Truss, a frontrunner to replace Boris Johnson as UK Prime Minister – have recently introduced a Northern Ireland Protocol Bill that would allow the UK to amend the terms of the Protocol.
Among other things, the draft legislation seeks to remove dispute settlement from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, authorises “green [fast track] channels” for goods staying within the UK, and allows for UK-wide policies on VAT. Proponents of the bill claim it is necessary to protect the “essential interest” of peace in Northern Ireland.
However, European Union Representatives have condemned this draft legislation as a potential violation of international law. In its most recent infringement proceedings, the EU alleges that the UK has not substantively implemented parts of the Protocol at all.
In particular, the EU claims that:
The last point is particularly interesting for VAT purposes, as the IOSS scheme is a signature piece of the EU’s “VAT in the Digital Age” initiative.
At the time of writing the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill has not yet been adopted by the UK Parliament. It awaits review in the House of Lords. The UK and the EU have stated that further negotiations over the Protocol would be the preferred option. The parties, however, remain far apart on the details.
The EU has set out two months for the UK to respond to the infringement action. Failing any new agreements, the action could lead to possible fines and/or trading sanctions between the parties. Taxpayers conducting cross-border trade between the UK and EU should ensure they stay on top of future developments.
The Philippines continuous transaction controls (CTC) Electronic Invoicing/Receipting System (EIS) has been officially kicked off for the 100 large taxpayers selected by the government to inaugurate the mandate. Although taxpayers were still struggling to meet the new e-invoicing system’s technical requirements just before the go-live date, the Philippines upheld its planned deadline and went live with this pilot on 1 July 2022.
The Philippines roll-out has once again highlighted the challenges of complying with new mandates and shown that readiness is vital.
Together with one of the six initial pilot companies, which started testing early this year, Sovos has developed the first software solution to obtain approval by the EIS to operate e-invoice transmission through the government’s transmission platform. Sovos’ solution is up and running in the Philippines.
One day before the EIS go-live, the Philippines tax authority, BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), published Revenue Regulations n. 6-2022, 8-2022, and 9-2022, containing the new system’s policies and guidelines and documenting the rules and procedures adopted by the EIS.
While the regulations do not represent news for pilot taxpayers who have successfully implemented their CTC e-invoice reporting systems, the same might not be accurate for those preparing to comply with the new mandate. The legislation officially establishes the country’s e-invoice/receipt issuance and reporting initiative, first introduced in 2018 by the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN), and documents relevant information.
As of 1 July 2022, 100 selected pilot taxpayers have been obliged to issue and transmit e-invoices and e-receipts through the EIS. The BIR is planning a phased roll-out for other taxpayers within the scope of the mandate, starting in 2023, but no official calendar has been announced yet.
Taxpayers covered by the mandate are:
Issuance and transmission can be done through the EIS taxpayer portal or using API (Application Programming Interface), in which taxpayers must develop a Sales Data Transmission System and secure certification before operating through the EIS. This entails the application for the EIS Certification and a Permit to Transmit (PTT) by submitting documentation with detailed information about the taxpayer’s system.
Although the regulations state that the submission of printed invoices and receipts is no longer required for taxpayers operating under the EIS, archiving requirements have not been modified. This means that during the 10-year archiving period, taxpayers must retain hard copies of transmitted documents for the first five (5) years, after which exclusive electronic storage is allowed for the remaining time.
Additionally, the legislation states that only the invoices successfully transmitted through the EIS will be accepted for VAT deduction purposes.
Many of the 100 pilot taxpayers struggled to comply with the country’s deadline. For this reason, the EIS has allowed alternations to the deadline for certain taxpayers, provided they submit a Sworn Statement detailing the reasons why they are not able to meet the requirement on time and a schedule with the date they intend to comply by, which are subject to the EIS’ approval.
Regarding non-compliance, the regulations state that the tax authority shall impose a penalty for delayed or non-transmission of e-invoices/receipts to the EIS and that unreported sales will be subject to further investigation.
After the pilot program kick-off and legally establishing the CTC framework, the government plans to gradually roll out the mandate to all taxpayers included in the scope in 2023. However, taxpayers who are not in the mandatory scope of the EIS may already opt to enrol in the system and be ready to comply beforehand.
Sovos was the first software provider to become certified, in conjunction with one of the pilot taxpayers, to transmit through the EIS, and is ready to comply with the Philippines CTC e-invoice reporting. Our powerful software combined with our extensive knowledge of the Philippines tax landscape helps companies solve tax for good.
Need to ensure compliance with the latest e-invoicing requirements in the Philippines? Speak with a member of Sovos’ team of tax experts
The EU and the UK use the Economic Operators Registration and Identification System (EORI) to identify traders.
Businesses and people wishing to trade in the EU and the UK must use the EORI number as an identification number in all customs procedures when exchanging information with customs administrations. The EU has one standard identification number across the EU, while the UK requires a separate GB EORI number for trade in the UK post-Brexit.
The purpose of having one standard ID in the EU is that it creates efficiency for both traders and the customs authorities. However, it’s vital to ensure all aspects of the system are considered.
The primary need for an EORI number is to be able to lodge a customs declaration for both imports and exports. Guidance is that a trader should obtain an EORI number in the first country of import or export. Carriers will also require an EORI number.
The EORI number exists in two parts:
The UK has also adopted this format, with both GB EORI numbers for trade into Great Britain (GB) and an XI EORI number for trade via the Northern Ireland protocol. The UK and EU have online databases where it is possible to check the status of an EORI number.
Since the UK left the EU, it is now required to have a separate GB EORI number to import and export from GB. This number will not be valid in the EU. However, should businesses be trading from Northern Ireland, then due to the Northern Ireland protocol, it is possible to apply for an XI EORI number to import into the EU.
Initially, after the introduction of the XI prefix, there were several reported issues. They included tax authorities being unable to recognise XI EORI numbers or link them to existing EU VAT numbers. Often it is the case that businesses have found it simpler to cancel an XI EORI number and apply for an EU EORI number in a Member State, particularly if that Member State is the main point of entry for imports into the EU.
Some of the most common issues we see at Sovos include:
Sovos provides an EORI registration service for traders who must apply for an EORI number. We can also link any existing EU VAT numbers to the EORI to ensure that customs declarations can be logged correctly, ensuring a smooth process and avoiding delays.
Contact us if you need help with VAT compliance.
According to European Customs Law, non-EU established businesses must appoint a representative for customs purposes when importing goods into the EU. In particular, the Union Customs Code establishes that non-EU resident businesses must appoint an indirect representative.
At the end of the Brexit transitionary period, many UK businesses suddenly needed to appoint an indirect representative to clear goods into the EU. In this article, we will look in further detail at this requirement’s challenges.
Indirect representation implies that agents are jointly and severally liable for any customs debt (import or export duties), which is why it’s harder for businesses to find freight companies and customs brokers willing to act on their behalf than for direct representation imports.
The conditions to be an indirect representative are that the customs agent must have a registered office or permanent establishment in the EU. An agent would require a Power of Attorney that enables them to act for the company. The main characteristic of indirect representation is that the agent will act in their own name but on behalf of the company that appointed them, essentially transferring the rights and obligations of customs procedures to the representative.
On the other hand, agents act in the name and on behalf of the company in direct representation.
In addition to the customs implications, agents acting as the importer of record or declarant may also be considered liable for complying with regulatory requirements. For example, any error in the declarations (ex. Article 77 paragraph 3 Union Customs Code (UCC), if the agent was aware of incorrect information or if they “should have known better”).
The European Court of Justice recently expressed its opinion on this matter with the ruling on the case C-714/20, UI Srl. This ruling determined that the indirect representative is jointly and severally liable from a customs law perspective, but not for VAT (contrary to a previous interpretation of Article 77 (3) UCC). The court specified that it’s up to the Member States to expressly determine if other persons, such as indirect representatives, may be considered jointly and severally liable for VAT of their importer clients. However, according to the principle of legal certainty, this should be clearly expressed in the local legislation before courts can enforce said responsibility.
For these options, each alternative solution will have economic and administrative implications to be considered. It is recommended that businesses carefully review their overall strategy before deciding what can be adjusted to comply with customs formalities.
Contact Sovos’ team of VAT experts for help with meeting VAT compliance obligations.
The recent popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has captivated investors, governments and tax authorities. An NFT is a digital asset that represents real-world objects such as a piece of digital art, an audio clip, an online game or anything else. NFTs are purchased and sold online and are typically encoded with the same software as cryptocurrencies. They are stored in the blockchain to authenticate and track ownership of the NFT.
NFTs are generally one of a kind and can fetch tens of millions of dollars for a single NFT. The total market value of NFT sales skyrocketed into the billions in 2021. The high values and increase in sales have inspired several governments to introduce VAT legislation to define and tax these digital assets.
Multiple countries have announced specific VAT measures for the treatment of NFTs:
Spain: Spain is the first country in the EU to apply VAT to NFTs. The General Directorate of Taxes in Spain issued a ruling stating the supply of NFTs is an electronically supplied service subject to the standard VAT rate of 21%.
Belgium: The Belgian Finance Minister confirmed that the supply of NFTs is an electronically supplied service subject to the standard VAT rate of 21%.
Norway: The Norwegian tax administration defines the supply of NFTs as an electronically supplied service. It’s important to note that the creation or mining of an NFT will not attract VAT in contrast to a sale.
Washington State (U.S.): The Washington Department of Revenue is expected to announce that NFTs are subject to the state’s sales and business taxes as a digital product. This ruling will make Washington the first state to issue sales tax policies on NFTs.
In other countries, such as Switzerland, the supply of NFTs is generally considered an electronic service; however, there is a Swiss VAT exemption for electronic works of art directly sold by a creator that may apply to NFTs. VAT treatment of works of art may create implications for tax authorities when classifying NFTs.
Another area of VAT concern surrounding NFT transactions is the place of supply. Place of supply for VAT purposes typically requires buyers and sellers to exchange domicile information such as a billing address. NFT transactions conducted through blockchain can avoid sharing personal information with intermediaries via an anonymous ‘wallet,’ which may lead to privacy concerns and other issues for tax authorities as they attempt to bring these transactions within the scope of VAT.
The VAT treatment of NFTs is still in its infancy and will continue to evolve alongside the digital asset industry. More insight into the classification of NFTs and the determination of the place of supply of such transactions will come as more tax authorities issue rulings analysing these unique digital assets.
To find out more about what the future holds, download the 13th Annual VAT Trends whitepaper. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up to date with regulatory news and updates.
Sovos recently hosted an online webinar on VAT recovery where we covered reciprocity agreements between the UK and EU Member States when making 13th Directive VAT refund claims. One of the questions that kept coming up is what are reciprocity agreements and why do they matter?
When making 13th Directive refund claims, each EU Member State has different rules or conditions to meet before agreeing to a VAT refund. One of the conditions that EU Member States may require is a reciprocity agreement. A reciprocity agreement is a deal to reciprocate VAT refunds between two countries.
Therefore, VAT is only refundable when a similar tax is refundable for local businesses in the applicant’s country. For example, suppose a Spanish business was allowed to obtain a VAT refund in Norway through a similar scheme to the 13 Directive. In that case, Spain would likely have reciprocity with Norway and will allow the Norwegian businesses to make a 13th Directive Refund Claim in Spain.
There are currently around 19 EU Member States that require reciprocity agreements for non-EU businesses to make VAT refund claims. Of those, Greece and Slovenia currently only have reciprocity agreements with two countries (Norway and Switzerland), whilst Italy has three (Norway, Switzerland and Israel). When making EU VAT refund claims, businesses should review reciprocity and not assume they will automatically be approved.
Before Brexit, UK businesses could make VAT refund claims through the EU VAT Refund Directive (also known as the 8th Directive) which was built to allow reciprocity freedom for all EU Member States. However, post-Brexit, this mechanism for VAT refund claims no longer applied, and the UK fell within the 13th Directive Refund Scheme as a non-EU business.
Whilst the UK and EU have a Free Trade and Cooperation Agreement in place, there was no specific mention of reciprocity in VAT refund claims as these should be agreed between those particular EU Member States and the UK. Therefore, it may be more difficult for UK businesses, that make refund claims around the EU, to recover VAT incurred in some countries.
Regarding current reciprocity agreements with the UK, the only official announcements we have seen to date have been from Germany, Spain and Hungary. However, we are aware of ongoing discussions between the UK and other EU Member States.
HMRC states they will only refuse a claim if the reciprocal country has a scheme for refunding taxes but refuses to allow UK traders a refund. Therefore, HMRC is willing to allow VAT recovery in the UK for EU businesses providing UK businesses receive the same treatment as the EU. It would therefore be in the interests of EU Member States to allow VAT recovery for UK businesses for businesses in their own country to benefit from the same treatment.
Most EU Member States require reciprocity when making VAT refund claims. Therefore, the law of reciprocity is an integral factor when looking to make a VAT refund claim in any jurisdiction. It’s important to understand these reciprocity laws to prevent wasting time and money on making a VAT refund claim from a country that doesn’t allow it.
Our previous articles covered audit trends we have noticed at Sovos and common triggers of a VAT audit. This article discusses the best practices on how to prepare for a VAT audit.
Each country and jurisdiction may have different laws and requirements related to the VAT audit process. Tax authorities can carry out audits in person or by correspondence, the latter often being the case for non-established businesses in the country in question.
A business may be audited at random or because there are reasons for the tax authority to believe that there is a problem with the company’s VAT return.
Generally speaking, authorities use audits and inspections to verify the accuracy of taxpayers’ declarations, identify possible errors or underpayments, and approve refunds.
As discussed in our previous article, to understand how to best prepare for a VAT audit, it’s essential to identify the reason why the audit was initiated.
Although specific checklists are available depending on the country of the audit, there are several actions that a business can carry out to prepare for an VAT audit. The most important of which is to collect documents and answers in advance. Frequently requested items during an audit include:
It is important that records of the above-listed documents, where applicable, are kept in line with local record keeping requirements. The need to prepare these documents in advance and the ability to produce them quickly becomes essential when a company is, for example, due to request the refund of VAT credits, to submit a de-registration or has, in general, any reason to expect for an audit to be initiated.
Authorities can open a cross check of activities with the company’s customers and suppliers, which will be initiated in parallel to the audit to verify that the information provided from both sides is consistent. Therefore, it is recommended to inform suppliers about any ongoing audit, communicate any questions or clarify outstanding queries. If, for example, a correction of invoices appears to be necessary, these should be finalised already in preparation for the VAT audit.
The tax authorities may impose very short and strict deadlines once an audit is initiated. Although it may be possible to request an extension, it is not necessarily guaranteed to be granted. In certain circumstances, authorities may impose penalties for late responses. Providing a clear and understandable set of documents to the tax office queries is essential to avoid any detrimental effects.
The advantages of preparing for a VAT audit can be summarised as follows:
Whether a business decides to handle the audit in-house or request the support of an external advisor, it is essential to consider the consequences of the audit, especially if high amounts of VAT to recover are at stake. In the event of an audit, the main objective should be to resolve it successfully and quickly, limiting as much as possible any detrimental impact to the business.
It’s no surprise that inflation is on the forefront of everyone’s mind, with prices continuing to sky-rocket month by month. Data from the United Kingdom shows that the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation jumped to a 40-year high of 9% in the past 12 months. Governments around the world are looking for ways to reduce the burden for consumers to keep global economies afloat. One method – implementing VAT rate cuts to certain goods and services – looks to be coming out on top as multiple countries around the world announced emergency budget sessions or introduced proposals to temporarily cut VAT rates.
Temporary VAT rate cuts are generally quick and easy to implement, which is why they are favored by governments globally. These cuts essentially allow for a boost to the economy by providing consumers with an overall higher amount to spend, incentivizing consumers to spend now while rates are lower.
As expected, many countries have already announced VAT rate cuts or measures to stimulate their economies:
Additional countries such as Estonia, Netherlands, Latvia, Greece, and Turkey are also taking measures to implement VAT rate cuts to fight the ever-rising costs for consumers.
These VAT rate cuts coincide with new measures passed recently by the European Commission allowing Member States to apply reduced rates to more items, including food. Though many Member States seem to be moving towards taking advantage of this new flexibility on VAT rate reductions, it’s expected that as costs continue to rise more Member States and countries around the world will introduce VAT rate cuts to ensure consumer spending doesn’t continue to trend downward.
Since many audits seem to occur at random, it’s not always possible to identify the reason why a tax office would decide to initiate one.
We’ve previously spoken about an increased interest in audits from the EU and audits for e-commerce. This article covers the most common reasons behind a VAT audit to help businesses anticipate and prepare for one when possible.
There are specific “trigger” events among the most common reasons that could cause further queries from the tax office. Generally speaking, these are changes in the company’s status such as a new registration, a de-registration, or structural changes within the company.
VAT refund requests also fall into this category. In some countries (Italy and Spain, for example) a refund request is almost certainly a reason for an audit to be initiated since the local tax office cannot release the funds before checks are completed. In this case, the likelihood of an audit increases when a refund is particularly substantial and the business requesting it is newly VAT registered. However, it doesn’t mean that the tax authority will not initiate an audit if the amount requested in a refund is relatively small.
Certain types of businesses are naturally more subject to audits due to their structure and business model. Groups commonly selected for scrutiny include, for example, large companies, exporters, retailers and dealers in high-volume goods. Therefore, elements such as a high number of transactions, high amounts involved and complexity of the business structure could be another common reason for an investigation to be initiated by the local tax authorities.
Tax authorities often identify individual taxpayers based on past compliance and how their information compares with specific risk parameters. This would include comparing previous data and trading patterns with other businesses in the same sector. Therefore, unusual patterns of trading, discrepancies between input and output VAT reported, and many refund requests may appear unusual from the tax office perspective and give rise to questions.
Another common reason for the tax authorities to request further information from taxpayers is the so-called “cross check of activities”. In this case, either a business supplier or client is likely to be subjected to an audit. The tax office will contact their counterparts to verify that the information provided is consistent on both sides. For example, if a business is being audited following its refund request, the tax office will likely contact the suppliers to verify the audited company didn’t cancel the purchase invoices and that they have been paid.
This category also includes cross checking activities on Intra-Community transactions reported by a business. In this scenario, the cross check would be based on information exchanges between local tax authorities through the VAT information exchange system (VIES). The tax authorities can check Intra-Community transactions reported to and from specific VAT numbers in each EU Member State and then cross check this information with what has been reported by a business on their respective VAT return. If any discrepancy arises, the tax office will likely contact the business to ask why they have (or haven’t) reported the transactions declared by their counterparts.
As we’ve already seen in an earlier article, audit triggers are also influenced by changes in legislation or shifts in the tax authorities’ attention to specific business sectors.
Regardless of whether it’s possible to identify the actual reason the tax authority initiated an audit, a business can undertake several actions in preparation for a check of activities, which will be covered in the next article of this series.
Continuing our series on VAT audits, we take a closer look at the trends we’ve seen emerging in the activities of the EU Member States’ independent tax administrations throughout the European Union.
In a recent report from the European Commission (EC) specific guidelines were published not only on best practices but also on how EU Member States can harmonise the focus of their VAT audit projects. We’ve seen a significant shift away from scrutiny of historically complex businesses in sectors such as automotive and chemicals to the other sectors such as online retailers and distance selling.
The report released by the EC in April noted that there should be a conscious effort from the local tax authorities to increase the efficiency of audit practices and outcomes, by indicating how complex projects can be directed to solve industry specific issues.
Speaking about EU Member States they noted:
“They should also put in place more complex audit projects (for specific groups of taxpayers, an industry or a line of business such as retail, to address a particular risk or to establish the degree of non-compliance in a particular sector) and perform comprehensive audits and fraud investigations.”
We’ve seen this already happening in some countries, such as the Netherlands and Germany, with a greater shift towards auditing of previously neglected companies in the e-commerce industry as a result of Brexit and the E-commerce VAT Package implemented in July 2021. Our own audit team here at Sovos has seen a 45% increase in audits opened on our e-commerce clients in the second half of the year – driven both by changing activity post-Brexit and the One-Stop-Shop (OSS) regime commencing.
Looking in more detail at different tax administrations’ approach to auditing, we’ve observed a greater focus in VAT refund audits in the Netherlands, whilst Germany has scrutinised e-commerce retailers on more specific matters. These polarisations both reflect the individual interests of EU Member States and also the activities of the businesses operating across the EU, but it’s clear that the tax administrations in all countries are taking note of the importance of conducting audits to close the VAT gap.
It’s recommended to involve administrative agencies and governmental bodies to assist with the more complex audit projects embarked upon by EU Member States. With changes to how goods move cross-border between the United Kingdom and the EU taking centre stage in 2021 there has been an increased importance placed on the information transfer between customs offices and their tax administration counterparts. As mentioned earlier, the implementation of the OSS regime has led to a greater shift in the reporting of e-commerce businesses operating in the EU and the impact on the audit process is yet to be revealed.
It’s clear that the major shifts in the VAT landscape in 2021 created a different set of challenges for businesses and tax administrations but encouraging accurate record keeping is still a central goal of most EU Member States. In our next article in this VAT audit series we’ll explore the common triggers of a VAT audit.
Need help ensuring compliance ahead of a VAT audit? Get in touch to discuss your VAT compliance needs.
In a recent blog, we considered the upcoming changes to the VAT treatment of virtual events. Today, we will consider some of the issues that may arise.
Many hosts currently use the available educational or fundraising exemptions, especially where the delegates are private individuals without the right of deduction, e.g., doctors. For events with physical attendance the host must consider the rules of the Member State where the event is held since that is where the VAT is due.
Under the new rules, a VAT exemption will be less relevant for B2B virtual events where the reverse charge applies as the attendee assesses the charge to tax themselves. However, it will remain relevant where delegates are unable to apply the reverse charge and unable to deduct the VAT charged – e.g. doctors. In such circumstances VAT is due where the doctor normally resides and that is where the exemption must be considered.
These new rules may require the host to assess the availability of the exemption in several Member States and may also require multiple ruling requests to be submitted. This is likely to increase operating costs substantially, and the (unintended) consequence could be that exemptions are not considered to the detriment of delegates.
Many future events are likely to include virtual attendees since it increases overall attendance at an event, requiring the host to manage two invoicing regimes. There could be issues where one taxpayer has both physical and virtual attendees. In this case, the host will need to issue two invoices – one with local VAT for the physical attendance (and where the exemption may apply) and one where VAT is due in the customer’s Member State and the general reverse charge may apply. The attendance of B2C delegates will further increase this complexity for the host.
What happens if a delegate is invoiced for physical attendance, but changes to virtual attendance at the last minute?
When the host provides the login details for virtual attendance, this may change the place of supply. If the place of supply changes, the host must cancel the original invoice and issue a new invoice with the amended VAT treatment.
Where a host currently holds an event with virtual admission for non-taxable EU delegates (e.g. doctors) then the place of supply is where the supplier is established. For a host established outside the EU, no EU VAT is due (ignoring the possibility of use and enjoyment), and it is also likely that no local VAT is due in the host’s own country.
Implementation of the new rules will mean that the host must charge VAT in the Member State where the doctor normally resides. This will not only result in unrecoverable VAT for the doctor but will also increase the compliance costs of the host. Virtually attending such an event in 2025 may become significantly more expensive than in previous years.
The article governing the transposition of these changes requires Member States to “adopt and publish” the necessary laws, regulations etc., by 31 December 2024. The changes will then apply from 1 January 2025.
Member States must not break rank and apply these rules before this date. A situation where some Member States adopt and apply the rules early could lead to double taxation, particularly in B2C transactions.
Once the rules are in force on 1 January 2025, several issues could arise. What happens for an event in January 2025 where delegates must pay for admission ahead of time in 2024? Where is VAT accounted for, and under which rules?
For B2B, there should be no issue since the service remains a general rule, but there is a real issue for non-taxable delegates, e.g. doctors.
For example, a US host holds an event where a German doctor will attend virtually. The event is in January 2025, but the delegate must pay the admission fee by 30 November 2024 to secure a place. Under current rules, applicable in 2024, the place of supply is where the supplier is established, so no VAT is due on the invoice. But when the event happens in January 2025, the new rules say that German VAT is due.
The time of supply rules are not affected by these changes but could a tax authority seek to change these to increase its tax revenue? For example, Greek VAT law says that the tax point is when the event takes place – not when the invoice is issued/payment received. So, in the above example, Greek VAT would be due for a Greek B2C delegate.
When considering the taxation of virtual events, the new rules state that in view of the digital transformation of the economy, it should be possible for Member States to provide the same treatment of live-streamed activities, including events, as those which are eligible for reduced rates when attended in person. To enable this, the annex detailing which services can benefit from a reduced rate will be amended to include admission to:
This change means that events that are live streamed can benefit from a reduced VAT rate. Though the changes to the place of supply rules refer to “virtual attendance” for B2B and “streamed or made virtually available” for B2C.
Are we to assume that “virtual attendance” = “live streamed”? But “streaming” can be live or recorded. Do these changes also cause an issue for VAT rate determination?
If a delegate watches an event live, then a reduced rate is possible. If the same event is watched via downloading a recording later, then the reduced rate is not possible. If one fee gives a delegate the right to attend the event virtually and download the event for future reference, then the concept of a mixed supply may be relevant.
A recent report released by the European Commission has stressed the need for Member States to increase the number of audits they undertake, particularly in e-commerce businesses. The European Commission specifically highlighted the need for Malta, Austria and France to make additional efforts to improve their value-added tax audit practices. They highlighted the seriousness of the issue and that the consequences of inaccurate VAT reporting can be severe. VAT audits, therefore, promote accurate reporting and mitigate fraud, and as such, they are being encouraged by the Commission.
The European Commission specifically stated that tax authorities should have a strategic approach which must observe multiple elements, including:
The report notes some of the positive actions taken by Member States. Generally, they pay close attention to the audit process, with Finland and Sweden highlighted as particularly good. Furthermore, the report notes that some Member States have established special “VAT task forces” to deal with audits.
Following this report, the European Commission also announced that Norway should be authorised to participate in joint audits with their counterparts in the EU as a further measure to crack down on fraud.
E-commerce is a good example of an area that continues to grow, with the VAT stake ever increasing. With tax authorities globally struggling to keep pace with new technology and consumer offerings, local tax authorities are implementing further measures to ensure that fraud is combatted at an EU-wide level. Whether further changes occur through a difference in how VAT is reported or new forms of reporting such as continuous transaction controls (CTCs) that are in place in some Member States already, VAT audits are at the heart of this strategic plan. In this report, the European Commission has clarified that the approach and scope of audits should be extended.
With increased Member States co-operation and new measures adopted by the European Commission, such as the implementing regulation that provides details on how payment providers should start providing harmonised data to tax authorities from 2024, businesses should ensure that they have adequate controls in place to be able to handle any audit request. Future blogs in this series will focus on the audit trends we’ve noticed at Sovos and how businesses should prepare for an audit.
For more information about how Sovos’ VAT Managed Services can help ease your business’s VAT compliance burden, contact our team today.
Events and conferences typically take a long time to organise and in the early part of 2020 several events that were scheduled to take place were impossible because of the various Covid-19 restrictions. Looking at a loss of revenue, and not knowing how long restrictions would last, many hosts went online and hosted virtual events. This changed both the nature and the place of the supply.
Where there is physical attendance at an event then the place of supply is the place where the event takes place for all delegates.
For B2B delegates the current rules mean that virtual admission will be classified as a general rule service so VAT is due where the customer is established.
For B2C delegates the current rules depend on whether the virtual attendance can be considered an electronically delivered service or a general rule service. For electronically delivered services supplied the place of supply is where the customer normally resides and for other services the place of supply is where the supplier is established.
An electronically delivered service is one which can be delivered without any human intervention such as downloading and watching a pre-recorded presentation. Where a service requires human intervention, this is not considered to be electronically delivered.
Online conferences and events typically have a host or compere and will normally also allow delegates to ask questions in real-time via live chat or similar. The human dimension excludes the possibility of this being classified as an electronically delivered service which means that for B2B the place of supply is where the customer is established and for B2C the place of supply is where the host is established.
The changes are being introduced to ensure taxation in the Member State of consumption. To achieve this, it is necessary for all services that can be supplied to a customer by electronic means to be taxable at the place where the customer is established, has his permanent address or usually resides. This means that it is necessary to modify the rules governing the place of supply of services relating to such activities.
The changes apply to “services that can be supplied by electronic means” but this is not defined. It would appear, from the following to be wider than “electronically delivered”.
To achieve this the current law governing attendance by B2B delegates which results in VAT being due where the event is held will specifically exclude admission where the attendance is virtual.
This suggests that “supplied to a customer by electronic means” occurs when attendance is virtual and has the effect of removing the distinction of “human intervention” in respect of electronically delivered services.
The law governing B2C sales will state that where activities are “streamed or otherwise made virtually available”, the place of supply is where the customer is established.
These changes suggest that “supplied to a customer by electronic means” occurs when the service is streamed or made virtually available. The possibility of streaming (which can be live or recorded) does not appear in the amendment to the B2B rule.
The law governing Use and Enjoyment has also been updated to reflect these additions.
For events that are attended virtually the place of supply for both B2B and B2C will be where the customer is established, although this can be amended by application of the Use and Enjoyment rules.
For B2B attendees, the host will not charge local VAT as the reverse charge will apply unless the host and attendee are established in the same Member State.
For B2C attendees the host will charge local VAT according to the location of the attendee. The Union and non-Union OSS will be available to assist reporting where the attendee is in the EU.
Member States are required to adopt and publish the required laws, regulations and administrative provisions by 31 December 2024 and must apply these from 1 January 2025.
In our next blog we will consider some practical issues that may arise from these changes and how they impact VAT compliance.
Over the past decade, the Middle East region has undergone impactful financial and fiscal changes. VAT was introduced as one of the solutions to prevent the impact of decreasing oil prices on the economy after the region’s economic performance started to slow down.
After realising the benefits of VAT to the economy, the next step for most governments is to increase the effectiveness of VAT controls. Currently, most Middle Eastern countries have VAT regimes in place. Like many countries, Middle Eastern countries are paving the way to introduce continuous transaction controls (CTC) regimes to achieve an efficient VAT control mechanism.
Saudi Arabia is leading the way, introducing its e-invoicing system in 2021. This e-invoicing framework, in its current form, doesn’t require taxpayers to submit VAT relevant data to the tax authority in real-time. However, that is about to change, as the Saudi tax authority will enforce CTC e-invoicing requirements from 1 January 2023. This means that taxpayers will be required to transmit their invoices to the tax authority platform in real-time. More details on the upcoming CTC regime are expected to be published by the ZATCA.
The introduction of the CTC concept in Saudi Arabia is expected to create a domino effect in the region; some signs already indicate this. Recently, the Omani tax authority issued a request for information that revealed their plans to introduce an e-invoicing system. The tax authority’s invitation to interested parties stated that the timelines for implementing the system have not been set yet and could involve a gradual rollout. The objective is to roll out the e-invoicing system in a phased manner. The e-invoicing system is expected to go live in 2023 on a voluntary basis and later on a compulsory basis.
The Bahrainian National Bureau for Revenue (NBR) has made similar efforts. The NBR requested taxpayers to take part in a survey asking the number of invoices generated annually and whether taxpayers currently generate invoices electronically. This development signals upcoming e-invoicing plans – or at least a first step in that direction.
In Jordan, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship (MODEE) published a “Prequalification Document for Selection of System Provider for E-Invoicing & Integrated Tax Administration Solution” that was, in fact, a request for information. The tax authority in Jordan previously communicated its goal to introduce e-invoicing. As the recent developments suggest, Jordan is moving closer to having an up and running platform for e-invoicing which will likely be followed by legal changes in the current legislation concerning invoicing rules.
The overall global trend is clearly toward various forms of CTCs. In recent years, VAT controls and their importance and the advantages presented by technology have changed the tax authorities’ approach to the digitization of VAT control mechanisms. As governments in the Middle East countries are also noticing the benefits that the adoption of CTCs could unlock, it’s reasonable to expect a challenging VAT landscape in the region.
E-businesses have recently been dealing with the change of rules within the EU with the introduction of the E-Commerce VAT Package but it’s also important to ensure compliance requirements are being met globally. In this blog we look at some of the low value goods regimes that have been introduced over the last few years together with those on the horizon.
Switzerland was one of the first countries outside the EU to introduce a low value goods regime when it revised the Swiss VAT law with effect from 1 January 2018. Previously, import of goods below CHF 62.50 were exempt from Swiss customs duty and import VAT. However, from 1 January 2018 any overseas sellers importing low value goods below CHF62.50 (standard-rated goods) or CHF 200 (reduced rated goods) that breach the CHF 100,000 threshold are required to register for and charge Swiss VAT on the sales of those goods.
On 1 April 2020, Norway introduced the VAT on E-Commerce (VOEC) scheme for foreign sellers and online marketplaces selling low value goods. These low value goods include those with a value below NOK 3,000 exclusive of shipping and insurance costs. The threshold applies per item and not per invoice, although doesn’t include sales of foodstuffs, alcohol and tobacco as these goods continue to be subject to border collection of VAT, excise duties and customs duties. Any foreign seller that exceeds the threshold of NOK 50,000 has an obligation to register for Norwegian VAT and apply this at the point of sale if they’re registered under the VOEC scheme.
Australia and New Zealand introduced very similar schemes to collect GST on low value goods being sold by overseas sellers. Australia introduced its scheme on 1 July 2018 for all goods with a customs value of less than AUD 1,000 and a turnover threshold of AUD 75,000 which once breached means the overseas seller must register for Australian GST and charge this at the point of sale.
New Zealand introduced a low value goods scheme on 1 October 2019 and applied this to low value goods valued at less than NZD 1,000. The turnover threshold in New Zealand is NZD 60,000 which once breached requires the overseas seller to register and charge New Zealand GST.
Following Brexit, the UK abolished the low value goods consignment relief of GBP 15 and introduced a new regime on 1 January 2021 covering imports of goods from outside the UK in consignments not exceeding GBP 135 in value (which aligns with the threshold for customs duty liability). Under these new rules, the point at which VAT is collected moves from the point of importation to the point of sale. This has meant that UK supply VAT, rather than import VAT, will be due on these consignments. Making these supplies requires registration for VAT in the UK from the first sale.
Singapore is the latest country to announce it will introduce new rules for low value goods. Effective 1 January 2023, private consumers in Singapore will be required to pay 7% GST on goods valued at SGD 400 or below that are imported into Singapore via air or post (the GST rate will rise to 9% sometime between 2022 to 2025).
An overseas vendor (i.e., supplier, electronic marketplace operator or re-deliverer) will be liable for GST registration where their global turnover and value of B2C supplies of low value goods made to non-GST-registered customers in Singapore exceeds SGD 1 million at the end of any calendar year. It may also be possible to register voluntarily if required.
On 5 April 2022, the EU Council formally adopted changes to the current rules governing reduced VAT rates for goods and services. These amendments to the VAT Directive were published in the Official Journal of the EU on 6 April 2022 through Council (EU) Directive 2022/542 of 5 April 2022 and are effective immediately.
The EU Council approval follows the EU Parliament’s official review of the amendments in March 2022.
The Council Directive grants Member States more rate options they can apply and ensures equal treatment between Member States. Article 98 of the VAT Directive is amended to provide the application of a maximum of two reduced rates of at least 5% that may be applied to up to 24 supplies listed in the revised Annex III.
Member States may apply a reduced rate of less than 5% and an exemption with the right to deduct VAT (zero-rate) to a maximum of seven supplies from Annex III. The reduced and zero-rates application is limited to goods and services considered to cover basic needs, such as water, foodstuffs, medicines, pharmaceutical products, health and hygiene products, transport of persons and cultural items like books, newspapers and periodicals. It’s the first time Member States can exempt such necessities.
All Member States now have equal access to existing derogations to apply reduced rates for specific products previously granted on a country-specific basis. Taxpayers must exercise the option to apply the derogations by 6 October 2023.
Annex III contains notable new supplies and revisions to support green and digital transitions: supply and installation of solar panels, supply of electricity and district heating and cooling, bicycles and electric bicycles, admission to live-streaming events (from 1 January 2025), live plants and floricultural products, and others. Environmentally harmful goods such as fossil fuels and chemical fertilizers/pesticides have also been added but will be excluded from 1 January 2030 and 2032.
Member States must adopt and publish, by 31 December 2024, the requisite laws and compliance measures to comply with the new rules scheduled to apply from 1 January 2025.
Member States have begun enacting legislation in response to the new reduced rate Directive since its approval in December 2021. Poland and Croatia reduced the VAT rate on basic foodstuffs to the zero-rate and Bulgaria and Romania are considering the same. Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Spain have announced VAT reductions on energy supplies (e.g., electricity, heating/cooling, natural gas) and Greece is considering the reduction.
These rate changes have already been proposed or enacted before the 6 April 2022 effective date of the Council Directive. While world events and energy price spikes also contribute to these changes, the long-anticipated reduced rate amendments now allow Member States to do so within the bounds of the VAT Directive.
It‘s expected that more Member States will review their VAT rate structure in response to these new reduced rate opportunities.
For more on these amendments, please refer to our previous blog.