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VAT deduction on import

Imports of goods are subject to VAT, with taxation taking place when the goods clear through customs. VAT is therefore payable at the time the goods are considered to be imported.

VAT should normally be paid by the person designated as the actual recipient of the goods on the import declaration. However, some countries (e.g. Belgium) allow persons who are not the owners of the goods to act as consignees on importation and to be entered on the Single Administrative Document (SAD).

The case before the Court of Justice

Weindel, a company active in the field of reconditioning services, imported goods from Switzerland, Hong Kong and China to Slovakia for reconditioning. Weindel released the said goods for free circulation. Once repackaged in Slovakia, the goods were supplied to other Member States or exported to third countries. The repackaging service was invoiced to the customer, a Swiss company which remained the owner of the goods concerned throughout the whole process. The invoices issued by Weindel therefore only related to the repackaging services and not to the imported goods.

Weindel paid the import VAT and wanted to recover it. The Slovakian Authorities were however of the opinion that Weindel was not entitled to deduct that import VAT.

What does the Court of Justice say?

The existence of a direct and immediate link between a particular input transaction and one or more taxable output transactions is, in principle, necessary in order for the taxable person to have a right to deduct input VAT. The right to deduct input VAT on the acquisition of goods or services presupposes that the expenditure incurred to acquire the goods or services forms part of the price of the taxable output transactions.

A right of deduction is however also allowed in favor of the taxable person, even where there is no direct and immediate link between a particular input transaction and one or more taxable output transactions, where the costs of the services in question form part of the general costs of the latter and are, as such, constituent elements of the price of the goods or services he supplies. Such costs have a direct and immediate link with the taxable person's entire economic activity.

In the case at hand, Weindel intervenes only as a provider of services, without having acquired the imported goods or borne the cost of importation, which suggests that here is no link between the payment of the VAT resulting from the importation and the price of the services provided by Weindel.

As a consequence thereof, the European Court of Justice ruled that the importer cannot benefit from the right to deduct VAT where he does not dispose of the goods in the same way as an owner and where the input import costs are non-existent or are not incorporated in the price of the particular output transactions or in the price of the goods and services supplied by the taxable person in the course of his economic activities.

Source : EUCJ, Weindel Logistik Service SR spol. s r.o., C‑621/19, 08/10/2020

The VAT expert's eye

This Order is of particular importance in case of toll manufacturing of imported raw materials. The European toll manufacturer should rather avoid acting as the importer of record unless there is also a customs suspensive regime in place (i.e. Inward Processing Relief).

Otherwise, the import VAT could become a cost!

Maximize Your VAT Deduction: Contact Our Advising Firm for Expert Guidance on Importing Goods

If you are importing goods into the EU, you may have to pay import VAT at the customs. However, you may also be able to deduct this VAT from your taxable income, The European Court of Justice (ECJ) clarified the conditions for import VAT deduction.

To take advantage of this opportunity, you need to know the details of the ECJ case law and how it applies to your situation. That's why you should contact our tax advising company.

We have the expertise and experience to help you with:

  • Checking your eligibility to deduct import VAT according to the ECJ ruling
  • Preparing and submitting the relevant documents to claim your VAT refund
  • Advising you on the best practices and compliance requirements for importing goods into the EU
  • Optimizing your cash flow and reducing your tax burden by reclaiming import VAT

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