EU VAT returns

Once a company receives a VAT number (see EU VAT Registration briefing) in any EU country, it will be required to complete VAT returns.  These declare any VAT transactions, applicable taxes and trigger a payment of any VAT due.  This briefing provides some background on what goes into an EU VAT return and when they have to be completed.

What goes into an EU VAT return?

All 27 member states of the EU have their own formats for VAT returns.  There are some basic key requirements, including:
  • Sum of all taxable transactions (sales and purchases) at net value
  • VAT charged on these transaction (includes standard rate VAT and reduced rate VAT) for both sales and purchases
  • Value of goods with nil VAT based on intra-community supplies, separately showing dispatches and arrivals from other EU countries
  • Net VAT due

How often are VAT returns submitted?

EU Member States are free to set their own calendars for VAT return reporting.  Countries typically follow the format below:

  • Monthly reporting is the most common cycle.  With the growing problems of VAT fraud, countries are increasing the number of foreign companies on monthly reporting
  • Quarterly reporting is the majority of other situations.
  • Annual reporting is required in addition in certain countries, e.g. Italy.  Other countries may only require a single annual return if there is very limited activity e.g. Germany.
  • On an activity basis which is very rarely allowed (e.g. France) for companies with irregular trading.

What are the deadlines for VAT returns?

Again, countries may set their own reporting deadlines for their returns.  Germany, for example, requires VAT filings within 10 days of the reporting period end.  Most other countries expect the returns around the 20th in the month following the return period ending.

How often are VAT returns submitted?

Increasingly, EU countries are now requiring electronic filing via the internet.  Whilst one or two countries do provide English-language returns and online portals, the majority are on a local language basis.

Most countries expect immediate payment of any VAT due.  This can be done be international bank transfer.  In some countries, a local bank account may be more practical e.g. Romania.