Companies having to file VAT returns in different EU countries soon discover how different and complicated the procedures can be in each of the countries concerned. A few tips and a piece of advice: get someone to help you!

Who has to file a VAT return?

When your company carries out taxable transactions liable for VAT in an EU Member State, it has a number of reporting obligations in that country, including periodic VAT returns. This obligation applies to non-established foreign companies (or their fiscal representatives) as well as to established companies.
The companies concerned must first have obtained a VAT number in that country.

>> To find out if your company is required to register for VAT and file VAT returns in a particular country, see When is a company required to obtain an intra-community VAT number? Or use our simulator.

What transactions do I need to report?

On a VAT return, the taxable business provides the tax authorities of the EU country where it is registered with information on:

its taxable operations that come under the territory of the Member State concerned:

  • transactions subject to VAT – the VAT it has invoiced to its customers (output VAT) and the VAT it has to pay to its suppliers (input VAT)
  • exempt transactions according to local rules
  • reverse charge transactions

The amount of VAT due (or refundable) – a periodic VAT return will place you in credit or debit depending on your case.

The transactions to be reported vary from country to country and reference should be made to local legislation.
For example, in the United Kingdom, all purchases and sales are reported together, while in Italy each type of transaction is reported separately.

Some jurisdictions require additional reporting, for example:

  • In the Czech Republic: monthly return
  • In Poland: monthly SAF-T with transaction details
  • In Spain: IIC with details of operations
  • In Italy: communicazione IVA trimestrale

What checks are carried out on Intra-Community VAT returns?

The Intra-Community transactions declared must be consistent with the ESL, EPL and intrastat returns, as the tax administrations may carry out consistency checks between Member States based on the ESL.

National administrations may also carry out ad hoc checks on an item.

How do I file a VAT return in Europe?

You must declare your VAT according to the procedures defined by each each of the tax authorities of the countries concerned. Some countries make online returns mandatory, others require paper returns, some require authentication via an SMS code or digital certificate.

When do I file my Intra-Community VAT returns?

The VAT Directive states that returns must be submitted at least once a year (Article 252 of the VAT Directive). In practice, many EU countries require monthly or quarterly reporting. Theperiodicity can take any form: monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, annually, bimonthly, a one-off and sometimes a mixture of – monthly and annually for example.

Companies with a high turnover must, in some countries, file returns more frequently.

In some EU countries, the annual returns contain all the information required in the periodic returns, plus the information needed for possible adjustments

The filing deadline for a return may not exceed the end of the return period by more than two months. In practice, it also varies from country to country, as do the late fees.

See details in our country guides.

Things that can vary from country to country

Intra-Community VAT returns vary greatly from country to country:

  • different operations and scope of application
  • different languages
  • different formats (more or less details)
  • different periodicity
  • different currencies
  • different methods of filing
  • different correction methods
  • different penalty procedures
  • different payment methods (direct debit, bank account in the country, transfer etc.)

Why use a
fiscal representative?

Companies established within the European Union are allowed to file returns themselves, but the complexity of the procedures is rather prohibitive and most prefer to appoint a tax representative or tax advisor.
Companies established outside the European Union who carry out taxable operations in EU Member States are requiredto appoint a fiscal representative who is responsible for their VAT returns.

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