Reverse charge on EU VAT

When the European Union Value Added Tax system was reformed for the launch of the single market in 1993, the Reverse Charge mechanism was created to help simplify the VAT reporting across the 28 member states.  In simple terms, the Reverse Charge moves the responsibility for the recording of a VAT transaction from the seller to the buyer of a good or service.

That way it eliminates or reduces the obligation for sellers to VAT register in the country where the supply is made.  If the supplier incurs any local VAT on costs related to the service or goods supplied under the Reverse Charge, they may recover them through an EU VAT reclaim.


Examples of where the reverse charge is used

Below are some of the common examples across all EU member states of where the Reverse Charge may be applied:

  • 1. Intra-community supply of goods (when goods are sold to someone in another EU member state) to another EU VAT registered business (compulsory in all countries)
  • 2. The supply of services to an EU VAT registered business in another state (compulsory since 2010).  The supply of certain services, including related to immovable property and live events still operates under the ‘Special Rule’, and the place of supply is where the service takes place.
  • 3. In some countries, the supply of goods on import or domestic supplies

How does the reverse charge work

When the Reverse Charge is applied, the recipient of the goods or services makes the declaration of both their purchase (input VAT) and the supplier’s sale (output VAT) in their VAT return.  In this way, the two entries cancel each other from a cash payment perspective in the same return.

From the authorities’ point of view, they can see the transaction reported in the special boxes provided in the returns for cross border supplies of goods or services.


Non-VAT registered recipients under the Reverse Charge

One area that may cause a VAT registration obligation is where EU businesses are not VAT registered (because they do not have taxable supplies) and they receive services from outside of Europe.

The services under the reverse charge will count towards their own VAT registration threshold.  This means companies such as holding companies are now being forced the VAT register for the first time, and are incurring input VAT which cannot be recovered as they have no taxable supplies for output VAT.

EU VAT return