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The European Connection

Apr 10, 2014
EU VAT: One Stop Shop solution on the horizon?

During my part-time contract to FEDEMAC, I was able to achieve numerous derogations, withdrawals and/or amendments of proposed EU legislation that otherwise would have been disastrous and costly for removers. The tasks always involved convincing the bureaucrats about the specialities of our industry and the vast differences from general road transport. The most complex dossier was on EU VAT.

My goal for a One-Stop-Shop (OSS) portal scheme, as a solution to the problems of paying VAT on private removals originating in an EU Member State (MS), other than the one in which the mover is VAT registered, still hovers – but this doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. The hard lobbying work has been done and, provided the impetus is maintained, EU agreement is likely by 2019/2020.

To understand the delays requires appreciation of the political difficulties. Tax rule changes at EU level require unanimity (28 Member States), on every detail, whereas many topics only require qualified majority. Member States are very sceptical over Brussels-led tax changes. Then there are the ‘political chess games’: we are only the ‘pawns’ and wrangling on other matters may indirectly hold the decision process up. Patience, determination and continued lobbying with step by step results, rather than one huge leap, are needed to keep all players on board.

Presently, we have the VAT Directive 2006 – 414 Articles, 12 Annexes – amended by three major Directives and the implementing regulations. Since 2006 there have been 21 Directives, 7 Regulations, 21 decisions; there are also 100+ derogations currently in force.

Here are just a few recently hard-won positive steps:

-          Intensive lobbying achieved introduction of an OSS scheme for EU VAT Refunds – 2010;

-          The European Commission’s (EC’s) Green Paper The future of VAT – Towards a simpler, more robust & efficient VAT system - launched 2011;

-          The Council has since ‘acknowledged’ the need to simplify the current system by reducing VAT compliance costs and administrative burdens for businesses working in more than one Member State;

-          An idea for a Standard EU VAT Return form required me to ‘bully’ several European movers into participating in an EC commissioned study. To my delight, this led to an EC report (October 2013) duly adopted by the European Parliament (EP) - 26 February 2014. Eventual agreement via trialogues (EC, EP and Council) should see the Directive enter into force on 1st January 2017. With the same ‘content boxes’ throughout the EU it should be easy to understand and file a return.

-          A ‘mini’ OSS EU VAT payment scheme commences in 2015, for telecom, broadcasting & e-commerce businesses; with a phased in (2015-2018) retention fee scheme from payments of VAT made between Member States.

The Council has ‘taken note’ of the EC’s view that an OSS scheme for all businesses engaged in EU cross-border trade is a crucial instrument to facilitate access to the single market.

Such statements are not released lightly. I look forward to lifting a glass, with some personal satisfaction, circa 2020!

Tony Richman


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