Scott BurkinshawTax Partner
It is easier than ever for companies to do business globally. That's why it's never been more important to make sure you understand International VAT.
Today’s technology has connected us to the world, and it is increasingly likely that a business with an internet presence will attract clients from outside the UK. This is good news from a business perspective but presents the challenge of understanding the complex VAT rules relating to international services.
VAT on international services is one of the most complex areas of VAT, but our specialist VAT advisory team have a wealth of experience in this area and can help guide businesses through the VAT rules and regulations governing international business transactions.
Whatever your VAT query involves, get in touch with our team of specialists today. Where necessary, we can support our clients with international advice through our Praxity Global Alliance colleagues.
The starting point for identifying the VAT treatment of international services is the ‘Place of Supply of Services’ rules which must be used to establish whether services are subject to UK VAT or fall within the VAT jurisdiction of another country.
The rules require you to consider the following:
Although there are exceptions, most supplies of services are covered by the general rule which states that where you are suppling services to a business customer (B2B) the place of supply is where the customer belongs, whilst the place of supply to a non-business customer (B2C) is where the supplier belongs.
Following the general rule, a UK business charges UK VAT on services provided to non-business customers (B2C), but UK VAT is not charged on services supplied to business customers (B2B) as these are outside the scope of UK VAT.
Exceptions to the general rule include:
These services are deemed to be supplied where performed regardless of where the customer is based.
B2C supplies of a professional, technical, financial, or intellectual nature are another exception to the general rule. They are outside the scope of UK VAT when the customer resides outside the UK.
Some services are covered by the ‘use and enjoyment’ rule. This ensures that VAT is charged based on where services are consumed rather than where the customer is located. The services covered by these rules are:
Where any of these services are ‘used and enjoyed’ by a customer in an EU member state, there may be a liability to register for VAT in that member state.
Learn more about use and enjoyment in the UK and EU in our blog.
B2C supplies of electronic services, including supplies of music, films and games, website hosting, software and software updates, and supplies of advertising space on websites are an exception to the general rule.
The place of supply is where the customer is located, and local VAT is chargeable if the customer resides in an EU member state. Options for charging and declaring EU VAT are:
Receiving a supply of services from outside the UK has VAT implications for the UK purchaser.
A UK VAT registered business purchasing services from an overseas supplier will not be charged VAT. However, UK VAT must be accounted for on the VAT return of the UK business under the reverse charge mechanism. A common and often overlooked example of this is software licenced from companies based in Ireland or the US.
There are numerous complexities and potential pitfalls associated with international VAT, and mistakes can be costly, both in time and money. This is why we believe it is essential that businesses seek qualified VAT guidance from those with experience in this complex and ever-evolving area of tax.