What You Must Know About EU VAT If You Have European Customers

Oct 6, 2021 GST/HST Commentary
European Continent with Flags

Establishing a business within Canada requires an understanding of Canadian tax law and the rules and regulations surrounding how to charge sales tax within the country. But what happens when your business extends beyond Canadian borders and into the European market? Unfortunately, European Union value added tax, or EU VAT, does not follow the same procedures as the traditional Canadian tax system. This can pose a new set of challenges to business owners.

Making tax mistakes when conducting international business can, and often does, result in tremendously expensive consequences. Luckily, mistakes are easily avoidable when you are armed with knowledge of how to navigate EU VAT. At Jeremy Scott Law, we help Canadian businesses implement tax strategies and solutions that work, saving them substantial time and money in the process. Let us uncomplicate the tax process for you. Call us at 902-403-7201 to find out how.

What Is EU VAT?

Value Added Tax, or VAT, is a consumption tax that is applied to tangible and digital goods or services sold in countries that utilize such a tax system. The European Union, as a whole, uses VAT through the supply chain, from production to point of sale. This means that as a Canadian business, if you sell to customers located in the EU, you must charge VAT.

The standard tax rate cannot be below 15%, but reduced rates as low as 5% can be applied to specific products or services. Annex III of the VAT Directive lists the products and services that qualify for reduced rates. Failing to comply with a country’s VAT rules and regulations can result in steep penalties and fines. Penalties may even be brought against businesses who intentionally fail to register for VAT.

There are several types of VAT rates utilized in EU countries depending on the country as well as the types of products/services sold. While the EU has worked to simplify VAT procedures, there are still significant nuances that businesses must account for. For instance, if your company sells to another business in Europe, you may not need to charge VAT. Furthermore, new EU VAT rules governing cross-border e-commerce were rolled out in July of 2021.

I Sell Directly To Customers. Do I Need To Charge VAT In The EU?

Yes. Any goods or services sold directly to customers within the EU are subject to VAT charges. A business must be registered for a VAT Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) scheme in an EU country by the 10th day of the month after the first sale to a EU-based customer. Opting out of the VAT MOSS scheme means that your business must register for VAT in each and every EU country where you supply digital services.  

I Sell To Other Businesses. Do I Need To Charge VAT In The EU?

No. All business to business (B2B) sales in the EU are zero rated, meaning no VAT is charged. These sales should still be recorded, with proof of delivery, VAT number of the business customer, and the “intra-EU dispatch of goods” phrase clearly indicated on the invoice.

What Do I Need To Know About The New EU VAT E-Commerce Rules?

In July, 2021, the European Commission adopted new rules for e-commerce and VAT. Everyone is affected by the new VAT e-commerce rules, from online sellers and marketplaces to software platforms to everyday consumers. If your business sells directly to customers (B2C), then it is important to understand the changes. 

In an effort to streamline VAT registration, businesses are now required to register for the declaration and payment of VAT in only one EU state. This is facilitated by the One Stop Shop, an online portal that businesses can use to comply with EU VAT regulations.

Moreover, the VAT exemption for goods imported to the EU under EUR 22 has been abolished, meaning all commercial goods are now subject to VAT and formal customs declaration. The EU adopted the Import One Stop Shop (IOSS) to facilitate easy VAT declaration and payment of low-value goods. Therefore, for shipments valued at EUR 150 or below, VAT can be charged using the IOSS or collected from the final customer by the customs declarant. 

The new EU VAT rules also impact online marketplaces. Any online marketplace that facilitates the buying and selling of goods is now considered a “deemed supplier,” meaning they are responsible for charging and collecting VAT. The VAT rate charged is that of the consumer’s country of residence.

It should be noted that these changes only govern business to customer (B2C) sales. For business to business sales, the new e-commerce VAT rules do not apply.

How Can A Tax Lawyer Help Navigate EU VAT?

The complexities of EU VAT extend far beyond what we have reviewed today. Seeking the assistance of an experienced tax lawyer can help your business navigate European Union VAT charges and avoid costly mistakes. The tax procedures of the EU are not the same as the regulations that businesses abide by in Canada. As such, it is important to move forward carefully and mitigate risk wherever possible. At Jeremy Scott Law, we leverage our years of experience to help businesses and startup companies make well-informed tax decisions. Through our legal counsel, we allow business owners to focus fully on growing their companies. Let us help you take your business to the next level. Call Jeremy Scott Law at 902-403-7201 today to speak with an experienced tax lawyer and learn how to navigate European commerce efficiently and successfully.

If you found this information valuable, I encourage you to check out my other blog posts.

The Disclaimer:

Please note the content above and throughout this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind.  I urge you to seek specific legal advice by contacting me (or your current legal counsel) regarding any legal issues you may face.  I do not warrant or guarantee the quality, accuracy or completeness of any information found on this website and will not be held liable for anything contained in this document or any use you make of it. Finally, accessing the information on my website does not create a lawyer-client relationship.

By Jeremy