The European Commission published its report on VAT in the Digital Age on 21 July 2022, which is broken down into five parts, including an executive summary and four volumes summarized as follows:
Volume 1, Digital Reporting Requirements
This part of the Study covers 'Digital Reporting Requirements', that is any obligation for VAT taxable persons to periodically or continuously submit data in a digital way on all (most of) their transactions, including by means of mandatory e-invoicing, to the tax authority. As of September 2021, 12 EU Member States have introduced a Digital Reporting Requirement, with positive net impacts, as the additional VAT revenue exceeds the costs for setting up the system and complying with the requirements. However, the existing rules (or lack thereof) on Digital Reporting Requirements generate two main problems:
- a fragmented regulatory framework, and
- an insufficient degree of fight against VAT fraud, for intra-EU transactions, as well as at a domestic level.
The analysis of the impacts of possible policy options shows that the best policy choice results from the introduction of an EU Digital Reporting Requirement. As for the type of requirement, the comparison suggests that an e-invoicing solution ranks first across the various scenarios.
Volume 2, The VAT Treatment of the Platform Economy
This part of the Study on VAT in the Digital Age, prepared for the European Commission, Directorate General for Taxation and Customs Union (DG TAXUD), focuses on the VAT treatment of the platform economy. It aims to:
- provide an estimate of the size of the platform economy in the EU;
- analyse the VAT aspects related thereto, including an evaluation of the impact of the differences between the national VAT measures and guidelines; and
- conduct the analysis of costs, benefits, opportunities and risks in respect of possible future changes, including the underlying problem definition and identification of policy options.
The Study finds that there were over 1,500 digital platforms with a significant presence in the EU27 in 2019, generating about EUR 67 billion of revenue.
The scale of the platform economy has increased at a very fast pace for the last years. The growing scale, multi-sided nature, complexity and variation of business models within the platform economy create challenges for VAT rules, which are insufficiently clear and harmonized. Moreover, by bringing new economic operators into the tax systems, the growth of the platform economy hinders the enforcement of VAT compliance. The Study assesses a number of policy options encompassing:
- the clarification of VAT rules regarding the nature of the platform's facilitation and the providers' status;
- the streamlining of record-keeping obligations; and
- a structural change to the VAT treatment, consisting in the introduction of a deemed supplier role for digital platforms.
The simplifications and streamlining of VAT procedures would have a clear positive impact on economic operators by reducing administrative burdens, legal uncertainties and regulatory fragmentation. The introduction of the deemed supplier role would, on top of that, increase VAT revenue, both directly via an increase in the effective rate, and indirectly – via an increase in compliance. A deemed supplier role tailored to specific services that are often provided by non-taxable persons or SMEs in the accommodation and transportation sectors would have low administrative costs, while increasing VAT revenue. The deemed supplier rule would also rebalance the competition conditions between traditional and platform-based distribution channels, by eliminating the tax-induced advantage for occasional and very small suppliers operating via platforms. The broadest scope of the deemed supplier regime, including sectors other than transport and accommodation, would bring a significant increase in VAT revenue. This increase in revenue would however be cushioned, as a broad regime would also create distortions and disincentivise the use of platforms in certain sectors, i.e., where the deemed supplier regime would result in the higher VAT costs for transactions carried out by small-scale and occasional providers.
Volume 3, Single Place of VAT Registration and Import One-Stop Shop
This part of the study focused on progress towards a Single Place of VAT registration in the EU (i.e., the minimisation of situations where businesses are obliged to VAT register in more than one Member State) and improvements to the Import One-Stop Shop (IOSS) regime. The study examined the continued existence of situations requiring multiple VAT registrations after the introduction of the e-commerce VAT package on 1 July 2021. This both defined new rules and introduced two new mechanisms – the One-Stop Shop (EU and non-EU) and the IOSS – that allow businesses to avoid additional registrations by declaring and paying VAT incurred on certain types of transactions in Member States where they are not established. The examination led to an impact assessment exercise, including a problem definition, scoping out of objectives and policy options and an assessment of the likely impacts of these. The study found that certain types of transactions – especially in the quickly growing e-commerce sector – still require multiple VAT registrations, increasing administrative and compliance costs, contributing to fraud/non-compliance and distorting trade in the Single Market. Several policy options offer the potential to address these issues, including measures to increase the scope and use of the OSS and IOSS as well as to enhance the implementation of the existing reverse-charge mechanism.
Volume 4, Consultation Activities
The above volumes are complemented by Volume 4, providing a summary of consultation activities. The purpose of the report is two-fold:
- to assess the current situation with regard to the three domains listed above; and
- to assess the impacts of a number of possible policy initiatives in these areas.
The report is then intended to feed into the preparation of an Impact Assessment (IA) by the European Commission to accompany possible legislative or non-legislative initiatives.