Addressing the VAT gap in the EU

17-12-2020

Among indirect taxes, value added tax (VAT) has the highest share in the Member States' indirect taxation revenues and is an important source of income for the EU budget too. Therefore, estimations and actions to narrow the difference between expected and actual VAT revenues – the VAT gap – are important. According to the European Commission, the EU VAT gap stood at €140 billion in 2018 and could fall below €130 billion in 2019. However, Covid-19-related containment measures have hurt Member States' economies and eroded the VAT base. As a result, the VAT gap may reach over €164 billion in 2020. A broad VAT gap requires urgent action for improving voluntary compliance, achieving better administrative cooperation and enhancing the performance of national tax administrations. Recent EU legislative initiatives have addressed these needs, while also seeking to adapt the VAT system to the challenges of the modern economy. The VAT e-commerce package applicable from 2021 is a good example of these efforts. Another is the adoption in July 2020 of a tax package aimed to combat tax fraud. The package includes a Tax action plan, a communication on 'Good Tax Governance' and a proposal to amend Directive 2011/16/EU on administrative cooperation in the field of taxation. The European Union is a global leader in the digitalisation of VAT compliance, and its work on drawing up the legislative framework for applying VAT in the digital economy spans a number of years. Noteworthy is the requirement for non-EU businesses providing digital services to private consumers in the EU Member States to register for VAT and charge VAT based on destination, which set an example to emulate by other non-EU countries.

Among indirect taxes, value added tax (VAT) has the highest share in the Member States' indirect taxation revenues and is an important source of income for the EU budget too. Therefore, estimations and actions to narrow the difference between expected and actual VAT revenues – the VAT gap – are important. According to the European Commission, the EU VAT gap stood at €140 billion in 2018 and could fall below €130 billion in 2019. However, Covid-19-related containment measures have hurt Member States' economies and eroded the VAT base. As a result, the VAT gap may reach over €164 billion in 2020. A broad VAT gap requires urgent action for improving voluntary compliance, achieving better administrative cooperation and enhancing the performance of national tax administrations. Recent EU legislative initiatives have addressed these needs, while also seeking to adapt the VAT system to the challenges of the modern economy. The VAT e-commerce package applicable from 2021 is a good example of these efforts. Another is the adoption in July 2020 of a tax package aimed to combat tax fraud. The package includes a Tax action plan, a communication on 'Good Tax Governance' and a proposal to amend Directive 2011/16/EU on administrative cooperation in the field of taxation. The European Union is a global leader in the digitalisation of VAT compliance, and its work on drawing up the legislative framework for applying VAT in the digital economy spans a number of years. Noteworthy is the requirement for non-EU businesses providing digital services to private consumers in the EU Member States to register for VAT and charge VAT based on destination, which set an example to emulate by other non-EU countries.