The Author of the VAT Guide
VAT REGISTRATION IN FINLAND
When do you have to register for VAT?
It is mandatory for your company to apply for VAT registration with the Finnish tax authorities before starting your activities. Financial penalties may apply if the application for registration is submitted late.
How long does it take to get a VAT number?
If your file is complete, it generally takes one month to obtain the VAT number.
What documents do I need to provide when I register?
If your company wishes to register for VAT in Finland, it is essential to contact the Finnish tax authorities. There is no need to contact the tax authorities in your country of establishment.
In particular, your company will need to submit the following documents:
- The VAT registration form(s) completed in the language of the country
- A copy of the articles of association
- An extract from the trade register
- A certificate of VAT liability
- Power of attorney (if using a fiscal agent)
- Proof of activity on the territory of the country concerned: a contract, an order form, etc.
The Finnish tax authorities may require some of these documents to be translated into Finnish or Swedish.
Is a fiscal representative necessary?
Non-European companies cannot register for VAT themselves in Finland. They have to do it through a VAT representative. This is a local company that will represent you to the local VAT authorities. He is responsible for the respect of all your VAT obligations, including those of which he was not aware. For this reason, he may require a deposit (e.g. a bank guarantee) from you before accepting the representation assignment.
European companies are not obliged to appoint a VAT representative. However, to facilitate their relations with the local tax authorities, they may appoint a proxyholder (agent) to carry out the tax formalities on their behalf. In this case, it is not necessary to issue a bank guarantee. The company remains solely responsible for paying its VAT debts.
VAT OBLIGATIONS IN FINLAND
Is it necessary to keep VAT accounting ledgers?
Your company must keep ledgers sufficiently detailed to enable the application of VAT and its control by the Finnish tax authorities.
When do you have to file a VAT return?
Your company is required to file periodic VAT returns on a monthly basis [standard tax period].
- Quarterly reporting period can be opted for if your annual turnover of the preceding calendar year is under € 100.000.
- Yearly reporting period is also possible provided your annual turnover does not exceed € 30.000.
The VAT return must be filed electronically by the 12th day of the second month following the tax period. If reporting frequency is yearly, the due date is the last day of February of the following year.
The VAT expert's eye
Member States set the duration of the taxable period at one, two or three months. However, they may set different periods provided they do not exceed one year. The VAT return must be submitted within a period to be determined by the Member States. This deadline may not be more than two months after the end of each taxable period (Art. 250 of the VAT Directive).
Do I have to submit an annual return?
Your company is not required to file an annual recapitulative VAT return.
The VAT expert's eye
Member States may require the taxable person to file a return containing all the data referred to in Articles 250 and 251 and concerning all transactions carried out during the previous year. This return shall include all the information necessary for any adjustments. They authorize, and may require, the return to be made by electronic means under conditions which they determine (Art. 261 of the VAT Directive).
What is the deadline for paying Finnish VAT?
The company must pay the VAT due has the same deadline as the VAT return.
If you do not pay on time, Finish VAT authorities will charge interest for late payment.
The VAT expert's eye
Every taxable person who is liable for the tax must pay the net amount of VAT when filing the VAT return. Every taxable person who is liable for the tax must pay the net amount of VAT when submitting the VAT return. However, Member States may set a different deadline for the payment of this amount or collect instalments (Art. 206 of the VAT Directive).
When should the intra-EU statement be filed?
The company is obliged to file an electronic intra-Community listing at the latest on the 20th day of each month.
Filing the Statement on a quarterly basis is not possible.
The eye of the VAT expert
A recapitulative statement is drawn up for each calendar quarter within a period and according to procedures to be determined by the Member States. However, Member States may provide for recapitulative statements to be submitted on a monthly basis. Member States may allow, and may require, recapitulative statements to be submitted electronically under the conditions they determine (Art. 263 of the VAT Directive).
INVOICING RULES IN FINLAND
Does the invoice have to include VAT? Reverse charge?
As a supplier of goods or services, your company is normally obliged to issue an invoice with VAT to its customer. This is the general rule. However, there are many derogatory situations which transfer this obligation to pay tax to the customer himself. These situations are known as "reverse charge" situations.
The special reverse charge rules have been introduced in Finland for foreign companies:
For supplies of goods:
The reverse charge is applicable to major supplies of goods goods [with exception for specific topics] made by a business not established in Finland, provided that the customer is VAT registered in Finland. In case the foreign supplier has opted to register for VAT, reverse charge mechanism is no more applicable.
For supplies of services:
The reverse charge is applicable to all domestic supplies of services [with exception for specific topics, incl. access rights to educational-, scientific-, cultural-, recreational-, and athletic events, fairs and exhibitions, or other similar activities] made by a business not established in Finland, provided that the customer is VAT registered in Finland. In case the foreign supplier has opted to register for VAT, reverse charge mechanism is no more applicable.
What are the mandatory mentions on an invoice?
The VAT Directive lays down the minimum information that you must include on your invoice. In some cases, countries may add additional compulsory information. Particular attention should be paid to the conversion rates when the currency used on the invoice is not that of the country in which the transaction takes place, and to the specific statements justifying the legal reason why VAT is not charged.
What VAT rate should be mentioned on an invoice?
Finland has 3 different VAT rates :
- Standard rate : 24%
- Intermediary rate : 14%
- Reduced rate: 10%
VAT REFUNDS IN FINLAND
How can I recover VAT in Finland?
There are several methods to obtain refunds of Finnish VAT. The practical formalities for reclaiming foreign VAT will differ depending on whether or not your company is established in Europe and/or is identified for VAT in Finland:
- If your company has a VAT number in Finland, it will have to submit a refund application in the form and within the timeframe required by local regulations. A VAT credit cannot be carried forward to the next period. Refund is in general automatically refunded after the tax authorities have approved it.
- If your company is established in a European country and does not have a VAT number in Finland, it will have to apply for a VAT refund electronically from its country of residence, in the form and within the time limits required by Directive 2008/9.
- If your company is established outside Europe and does not have a VAT number in Finland, it may have to appoint a tax representative to submit its refund application in the form and within the time limits required by the 13th Directive.
Is Finnish VAT recoverable on all expenses?
VAT incurred on purchases, imports or intra-Community acquisitions of goods and services can be reclaimed by a foreign company provided that these expenses are for taxable activities and provided that the appropriate documentation is available.
VAT is however not recoverable or partially recoverable notably on the following expenses:
- Property that the taxable person or his staff use as a residence, nursery or recreational/leisure facility, as well as goods and services connected to it.
- Goods and services related to transport between the place of residence and place of work of the taxable person or his staff.
- Entertainment, representation and presents.