Postal operators, couriers and customs agents
As of 1 July 2021, new VAT rules will apply to cross-border sales of goods to EU individuals in the European Union (EU). Additionally, new EU VAT rules will apply for the import of goods (from non-EU countries), which have been sold to consumers. These new rules are not only relevant for the parties that are directly involved in such flows, such as the supplier and the consumer. Postal operators, couriers and customs agents such as yourself (or your business), which ship consignments from outside of the EU to the EU, or take care of clearance in the EU, will also be affected.
What is relevant to you, if you are a postal operator, courier or customs agent?
Abolishment of VAT exemption for consignments with a value up to € 23
At the moment, there is a VAT exemption upon import from non-EU countries, for consignments with a value up to € 23. This exemption will be abolished as of 1 July 2021. This means that the import of consignments from non-EU countries will in principle always be VAT taxed. More than before, determining the correct value of consignments is therefore of great importance.
New import scheme for consignments with a value not exceeding € 150
For consignments with a value not exceeding € 150, the following will apply.
Your client (the supplier of the goods) can choose to report the import and sale to the consumer, through the so-called Import One Stop Shop (“IOSS”). In that case, your client is issued a special IOSS VAT identification number. By using that IOSS VAT identification number, the import is exempt from import VAT. Your client (whether or not with assistance from an intermediary) reports the VAT (of the country in which the transport ends) on the sales, by means of his own IOSS return.
This IOSS VAT identification number is used for imports into all EU countries. This includes cases in which goods are transported to another EU country after import (for example in cases of centralised import through a hub location).
The IOSS scheme is optional. It is therefore important to know whether or not your client makes use of the scheme.
If your client chooses not to use the IOSS scheme, there are two options:
- In your role as postal operator, courier or customs agent, you can make use of a special scheme for postal operators and couriers. This scheme only applies if goods are imported into the EU country of destination. You collect the VAT from the receiver of the goods. You can report this VAT through a separate monthly VAT return. Here too, the scheme can only be applied to consignments with a value not exceeding € 150.
- If you do not make use of the special scheme for postal operators and couriers, the normal rules for VAT upon import, apply. Therefore in principle, VAT is levied directly at the moment of import. If the import takes place in the Netherlands and the importer (the supplier) has a so-called Article 23 license, the collection of import VAT is shifted to the VAT return of the importer (the supplier).
How can I prepare for these changes?
If you are a postal operator or courier, it goes without saying that you will need to prepare for these changes.
For example, you must establish and document whether or not your client makes use of the IOSS scheme and if so, what his valid IOSS VAT identification number is. These data need to be recorded in (the master data of) your administrative or ERP system, and must be verified regularly.
Also, we advise you to take a close look at the contractual provisions with your clients. This is amongst other things to ensure that the consignments are reported at the correct value, bearing in mind the various different import scenarios that may occur.