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New VAT rules on telecommunication, broadcasting, and e-services: towards more fairness and competition for businesses across Europe, but also potentially higher prices for consumers


18 Dec 2014


Euro & Finance
New VAT rules on telecommunication, broadcasting, and e-services: towards more fairness and competition for businesses across Europe, but also potentially higher prices for consumers This initiative is welcome in terms of creating a more level-playing fie
As from 1 January 2015, as part of the framework of the EU’s plan to combat tax fraud and evasion and as the final phase of the EU VAT Package, new VAT rules applying to telecommunications, broadcasting, and e-services provided by EU suppliers to private individuals and non-business customers will come into force. They aim to fill a legal loophole that until now enabled certain companies to set up in low-VAT rate countries. The place of supply of these services will be the place of residence of the consumers. 
Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at ACCA, says: “The issue at stake here is that certain companies have used low VAT jurisdictions - such as Luxembourg - for digital services to reduce their overall VAT obligations as the application of the tax was based upon the place of supply rather than consumption. ACCA is a longstanding advocate of the principles of fairness and competition on taxation matters. We therefore welcome this initiative in terms of creating a more level playing field between multinational companies (MNCs) and smaller home country-based businesses, but it may have some downsides in terms of additional costs”. 
Chas Roy-Chowdhury explains: “Current rules covering telecommunications, broadcasting, and e-services say the place of taxation is where the supplier is located. Suppliers of these services will, from January 2015 onwards, need to determine where their customers are established or usually reside, and will need to account for VAT at the applicable rate in those Member States. 
“An option for these suppliers could be to register for VAT in all EU Member States where they have customers. Another option to obtaining multiple VAT registrations would be to use the VAT Mini One-Stop Shop scheme (or “VATMOSS”), which allows suppliers to opt to account for VAT across the EU via a single electronic declaration to be filed with the tax authority where they are established.
“Although well meant, the system is not perfect yet. If you take the example of the UK, under the “zero threshold” condition, micro businesses selling digital goods in the EU (for example an online author who sells a single copy of their 99p/€1 e-book overseas) would have to register for VAT in order to account for the charge, whereas previously they could rely on their local registration limit. The “MOSS” allows them to register in the UK to cover their obligations in all the other 27 states. However, it does require them to be registered for VAT in the first place – an unnecessary imposition where the sales value is minimal, and the tax collected may only ever be a few pence. The UK Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has met with businesses and Treasury Minister David Gauke to explore ways to minimise the impact. While the UK Government specifically intends to exempt such businesses, many small businesses across other EU Member States will have to use platforms such as Google’s Play store and Amazon, which will collect the VAT themselves, but charge a fee” Chas Roy-Chowdhury adds.
“In addition, this will represent an important change for businesses supplying these services, requiring additional record keeping obligations. Suppliers will also need to make sure their billing, accounting and IT systems are still fit for purpose. Moreover, we need to take into account that, for the consumer, this may mean price increases for their broadband internet and TV packages”, Chas Roy-Chowdhury concludes.
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For more information, please contact:
Cecile Bonino, ACCA Brussels
tel: +32 (0) 2 286 11 37
Notes to Editors
1.      ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 
2.      We support our 170,000 members and 436,000 students in 180 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of 91 offices and centres and more than 8,500 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence. 
3.      Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers. 


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