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The European Commission has adopted a Communication on the future of VAT in the EU

Almost 20 years after introducing the single market the Commission has communicated that the fragmentation of the common EU VAT system into 27 National VAT systems is the main obstacle to establish efficient intra-EU trade. An ambitious reform of the VAT system is demanded. On this basis, the Commission has adopted a Communication on the future of VAT. The communication sets out the fundamental characteristics that must underlie the new VAT regime, and priority actions needed to create a simpler, more efficient and more robust VAT system in the EU.

Three overriding objectives shape the vision for the new VAT system:

  • First, VAT must be made more workable for businesses. A simpler, more transparent VAT system would relieve businesses of considerable administrative burdens and encourage greater cross-border trade. This, in turn, will be good for growth. Among the measures envisaged for a more business-friendly VAT are expanding the one-stop-shop (2015 and from then exporing the further use of the one-stop-shop) approach for cross border transactions; standardizing VAT declarations (a proposal to be made in 2013) and also in relation to registration processes, invoicing and evidence to justify an exemption or a reverse charge; and providing clear and easy access to the details of all national VAT regimes through a central EU web-portal (Member States to provide information and make sure it is up to date).
  • Second, VAT must be made more efficient in supporting Member States' fiscal consolidation efforts and sustainable economic growth. Broadening tax bases and limiting the use of reduced rates could generate new revenue for Member States without the need for rate increases (assessment in 2012 and a proposal by the end of 2013). The standard VAT rate could even be reduced in some Member States, without any impact on revenue, if exemptions and reductions were removed. The Communication sets out the principles that should guide the review of exemptions and reduced rates. The Commission will also be analysing Member States' use of reduced rates and exemptions when reviewing their fiscal policies in the context of the European Semester.
  • Third, the huge revenue losses that occur today due to uncollected VAT and fraud need to be stopped. It is estimated that around 12% of the total VAT which should be collected, is not (so-called VAT Gap). In 2012 the Commission will propose a quick reaction mechanism to ensure Member States can respond better to suspected fraud schemes (proposal in 2012). Furthermore, the Commission will see whether current anti-fraud mechanisms, such as Eurofisc, need to be strengthened and will explore the possibility of a cross-border audit team to facilitate multilateral controls.

Finally, the Commission has concluded that the long-standing question of changing to a VAT system based on taxation at origin is no longer relevant. Therefore, VAT will continue to be collected in the country of destination (i.e. where the customer is located), and the Commission will work on creating a modern EU VAT system based on this principle.

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