How long before the first court case over VATMOSS and the new digital EU VAT?

Is it going to be one of the tiny businesses and solo e-commerce traders in the UK who are desperately trying to find a compliant solution, only to discover the best currently on offer are semi-compliant? What’s going to happen on the 1st of July when the 6 month grace period on collecting two pieces of customer location data offered by HMRC expires – and people find themselves tied into a system that can only collect one?

Will it be someone who’s read the inaccurate newspaper and media reports of that grace period and believes the whole legislation has been suspended for six months? Because it hasn’t.

Will it be someone who’s read about someone else’s cunning ‘work around’ and believed it, without checking with HMRC themselves?

Will it be someone who’s made their own judgement on their business’s level of ‘manual intervention’, only to discover somewhere down the line that HMRC don’t agree…

Will it be someone who’s decided to opt out of all the confusion by barring all sales to other EU countries, only to discover this falls foul of discrimination legislation? At best that’s a very grey area.

Will it be someone who’s aware of discrimination legislation and has decided that they are still going to bar EU sales, because they’re going to rely on the ‘unreasonable burden’ get-out clause in there. Only to discover that HMRC don’t agree.

Because personally I can see the authorities coming down hard and fast on any such argument. If they allow that sort of precedent to stand, this whole system will quickly become unworkable.

Will it be someone who’s assumed that HMRC’s definitions of what is and isn’t an electronic service covered by these regulations apply across the EU? Because they don’t.

Not that there’s any centralised way of finding out what Bulgaria, for example, have decided about the digital supply of knitting patterns by downloadable pdf.

And since HMRC have already contradicted themselves and changed their minds several times, it’s entirely possible there are people out there relying on outdated information which could cause them problems later on.

Though let’s give HMRC their due. They are at least communicating with those affected and there are resources online to find. Other tax authorities across the EU are playing catch up at best, and at worst, people in France, Germany, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands are getting contradictory and confusing answers, depending on what whoever happens to answer the phone happens to think.

And those are only the countries I’ve seen information from. Not from their tax authorities, you understand, but from personal stories on Twitter and Facebook.

So how exactly am I supposed to find out anything definitive for myself, especially relating to countries where I don’t even speak the language. What’s the Romanian verdict on where the balance lies between personal intervention and an automatic download for a training course delivered part by webinar and part by ebook?

Will we someone prosecuted for applying an out of date VAT rate or one that doesn’t apply under the particular regional exception where their customer happens to live?

The official EU pdf detailing VAT rates comes with a very prominent disclaimer:

“The purpose of this document is to disseminate information about the VAT rates in force in the Member States of the European Union. The information has been supplied by the respective Member States, but part of it has not been verified by some of them yet. The Commission cannot be held responsible for its accuracy or completeness, neither does its publication imply any endorsement by the Commission of those Member States’ legal provisions.”

Will we see someone prosecuted in France for believing the widespread assertion that Autoentrepreneur status which bars them from levying VAT takes them out of the scope of this legislation?

Apparently the French VATMOSS portal has now changed so that Autoentrepreneurs can register which they couldn’t do up till now. I wonder how many people who tried and were told the system didn’t apply to them will have heard about this?

Will we see someone in Spain prosecuted for believing business media reports there that the same turnover thresholds apply for digital sales as for physical goods. And that’s not just a Spanish misunderstanding. It crops up time and again in queries from across the EU.

Will the first person in court be an American seller, or one from Australia, New Zealand, Canada – or anywhere else in the world – who’s decided that they’re simply not going to comply. Where does the EU have the right to dictate taxation to them? Only to discover that their own authorities have actually signed agreements to enable this sort of thing…

And onlookers wonder why small e-traders are deciding the safest thing to do is just shut up shop.

Well, there is more you can do. Check out the information on writing letters and emails here.

Do make sure to visit EU VAT Action for information, resources, calls to action and other ways you can make your voice heard!

For those of you on Facebook, there’s EU VAT Action Campaign Group – and associated foreign language groups are now being established.

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