New rules on Belgium import warehouse fiscal representatives

Tue 20th Dec 2011

The VAT liability of fiscal representatives to any VAT default by their clients has been reviewed in a recent European Court of Justice Court case.

For companies importing into Europe for the first time, the Belgian VAT authorities offer a special import VAT deferment scheme.  This postpones, or even cancels any cash flow payment of VAT.  The importer simply appoints a local entity (e.g. an accountant) to represent the company with the Belgian tax authorities.

This fiscal representative brings in the goods on their VAT number, and there should be no output VAT on the sale since there is reverse charge relief for local sales, and intra-community supplies are VAT exempt.

In the case reviewed by the ECJ, oil was being imported and held in a duty suspension storage facility.  VAT was not due until the goods were sold and left the warehouse.  In this case, the fiscal representative was the operator of the warehouse.

The ECJ held that whilst the fiscal representative could be held liable for the VAT, it was not so if it had acted in good faith.

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