How to Manage VAT Changes

Andy Spencer
December 21, 2021

In our previous blog, we completed the compliance cycle with tax authority audits. However, that’s not the end of the challenges businesses face in remaining compliant in the countries where they have VAT obligations. VAT rules and regulations change as do a business’s supply chains – these need to be carefully reviewed and appropriate action taken so that the business remains complaint.

Changes in supply chain

Supply chains develop over time for a variety of reasons: changes are made to improve efficiency, provide a better customer experience in delivery times or because of entry into new markets. Sometimes, these changes are instigated by the business seeking optimisation, whereas others are forced by external changes such as Brexit forcing businesses trading between the UK and EU to alter supply chains following the UK’s exit from the EU.

Whatever the reason for the change, it’s essential to review the impact on the VAT position of the business. This involves determining the VAT obligations that arise from the new transactions – which we covered in our previous blog. An early warning system of impending supply chain changes is required so they can be reviewed before the new transactions commence. Key to this is awareness of the importance of VAT within the business; the supply chain changes cannot be reviewed if the finance team is not aware of them.

Also, it’s not possible to undo a transaction once it’s taken place so the business must deal with the consequences even if they are adverse. Proactive action can ensure that the business goes into the new supply chain prepared and aware of all the consequences.

There are different ways to structure a supply chain to achieve the same commercial aim; they can have differing VAT implications so consideration of the consequences should form part of the evaluation process to determine the appropriate strategy.

Changes in legislation

Whilst businesses can control some element of when their supply chains change, responding to changes in legislation is much more difficult.

The first step is to be aware of what has changed. Changes can happen on a pan-EU basis or in an individual Member State so a mechanism needs to be in place to identify changes as soon as they are announced. Often this will require external support, especially if there are obligations in multiple territories.

Once the change has been identified, the next step is to determine the impact on the business. Some changes will have minimal impact whereas others will require proactive action to be compliant with the new rules. Significant changes may require a redesign of the supply chain. An action plan with clear responsibilities and timescales should be put in place to manage the necessary changes.

Managing new mandates

The EU has seen the introduction of numerous new mandates over recent years, often in respect of continuous transaction controls (CTCs), and this is set to continue as Member States seek to reduce the VAT gap.

The latest information published by the European Commission is for 2019 where the VAT gap was €134 billion. Whilst this showed a reduction from the previous year, it still represents 10.3% expressed as a share of the VAT Total Tax Liability.

Governments need to generate revenue in a post-pandemic world and addressing the VAT gap provides one solution without imposing additional tax burdens as it involves collecting tax that should already have been charged. Based on current trends, it will take 13 years to eradicate the gap so new initiatives are needed, hence the increase in CTCs.

Managing these new mandates will be a critical challenge for business in the coming years as they are introduced in more Member States. A clear strategy is essential to avoid becoming overwhelmed by disparate local requirements.

Over this series of blogs, we’ve looked at the key aspects of ensuring ongoing VAT compliance. Once the necessary processes and controls are in place, businesses can focus on trade knowing that VAT compliance is assured. However, maintaining VAT compliance is a continuous process which should be constantly reviewed to maximise efficiency and minimise risk.

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Author

Andy Spencer

Andy is a highly experienced indirect tax professional who has worked in VAT for over twenty five years. Andy joined Sovos in 2009 and has responsibility for the consulting and compliance teams. Within the consulting team, he is involved in delivering major international VAT projects for blue-chip clients, bringing expertise in both structural compliance and commercial efficiency. Andy specialises in providing clients with bespoke VAT reviews that help them develop into new territories with the appropriate controls in place to manage VAT effectively. Andy has developed expertise in international VAT throughout his career and has advised on a broad range of issues in many countries. Within the compliance team, Andy is responsible for the integrity and professionalism of Sovos’ compliance offering working with the team to ensure clients meet their compliance obligations around the EU and beyond. Andy began his career with HM Customs & Excise and before joining Sovos was VAT Director at Baker Tilly’s Southern UK operation, a Senior VAT Manager at KPMG for six years, and a Senior VAT Manager at Ernst & Young for seven.
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