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Administrative cooperation in the field of value added tax (until 31.12.2011)

The European Union (EU) has introduced a common system of administrative cooperation and information exchange for EU countries to ensure proper application of value added tax (VAT) and to combat fraud.

ACT

Council Regulation (EC) No 1798/2003 of 7 October 2003 on administrative cooperation in the field of value added tax and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 218/92 [See amending act(s)].

SUMMARY

This regulation determines the conditions of cooperation between national authorities responsible for applying value added tax (VAT) legislation on:

  • supplies of goods and services;
  • intra-Community acquisition of goods;
  • importation of goods.

It also provides a structure for cooperation between these national authorities and the Commission.

More precisely, the regulation lays down rules and procedures to enable the competent authorities of European Union (EU) countries to cooperate and to exchange any information that may help them assess VAT correctly.

Definition of parties concerned and procedures

Each EU country designates a single central office to act as a point of contact for administrative cooperation. The competent authorities of EU countries may designate liaison departments and/or competent officials for direct exchanges of information. The central liaison offices are responsible for maintaining up-to-date lists of these departments or officials and making them available to the other EU countries concerned.

Liaison departments and competent officials are required to inform their central liaison office when they send or receive a request for assistance or a reply to a request for assistance. They must also notify their central liaison office and competent authority of any request for assistance received that requires action outside their territorial or operational area.

The obligation for EU countries to assist each other does not cover the provision of information or documents obtained by the authorities when acting with the authorisation or at the request of a judicial authority, unless provided for in their national law.

Exchange of information on request

This concerns requests for information and for administrative enquiries sent by the competent authority of one EU country (the requesting authority) to the competent authority of another EU country (the requested authority) to obtain information that may help with the correct assessment of VAT. The requested authority has the obligation to provide the information requested. To that end, it may make administrative enquiries and act for the requesting authority as if it were acting on its own behalf.

The requesting authority may make a reasoned request for an administrative enquiry. In such cases, the requested authority must justify any failure to carry out the enquiry.

The requesting authorities must use a standard form for all requests for information and administrative enquiries.

As regards the time limit for providing information, the requested authority must provide the information without delay and no later than three months following the date of receipt of the request. However, if the requested authority is already in possession of the information, the time limit is reduced to a maximum of one month. In certain cases, the requesting and requested authorities may agree on different time limits.

If the requested authority is unable to respond to the request by the deadline, it must immediately inform the requesting authority in writing of the reasons for its failure to do so and indicate a timeframe within which it will be able to respond.

The requesting and requested authorities may agree to allow officials of the first to be present in the administrative offices of the latter. The officials of the requesting authority may also participate in the administrative enquiries with a view to exchanging information, but never to exercise the powers of inspection conferred on the officials of the requested authority. They must at all times be in possession of a written authority, which states their identity and official capacity.

EU countries may also agree to conduct simultaneous controls in their respective territories on the tax situation of taxable persons, if this is more effective than controls carried out by only one EU country.

Exchange of information without prior request

The competent authority of an EU country must forward information by automatic or structured automatic exchange to the competent authority of the EU country concerned when:

  • tax is meant to be charged in the EU country of destination and the effectiveness of the control system depends on information from the EU country of origin;
  • an EU country believes that a breach of VAT legislation has or might have been committed in the other EU country;
  • there is a risk of tax loss in the other EU country.

The exact categories of information to exchange, the frequency of exchanges and the practical procedures for exchanging information are determined by the Commission, assisted by a standing committee on administrative cooperation. In addition, each EU country must determine whether it will take part in the exchange of a particular category of information and whether it will do so in an automatic or structured automatic way.

The competent authorities of EU countries may forward to each other any information of which they are aware by spontaneous exchange.

Storage and exchange of information relating to intra-Community transactions

Each EU country must maintain an electronic database in which it stores and processes information relating to VAT. It is the responsibility of each EU country to ensure that its database is complete, accurate and kept up to date.

The competent authority of an EU country can obtain directly from any other EU country, or have direct access to, data stored on:

  • VAT identification numbers issued by the EU country receiving the information;
  • the total value of all intra-Community supplies of goods and services to persons holding a VAT identification number by all operators identified for the purposes of VAT in the EU country providing the information.

If necessary for the control of intra-Community acquisition of goods and supply of services to prevent a breach of VAT legislation, the competent authority of an EU country must receive directly, or have direct electronic access to, the following information:

  • the VAT identification numbers of the persons who effected the intra-Community supplies of goods and services;
  • the total value of such supplies to persons holding a VAT identification number.

EU countries must provide access to the information without delay and no later than one month from the end of the period to which the information relates.

Conditions governing the exchange of information

The requested authority may refuse a request for assistance. In such cases, it must always inform the requesting authority of its reasons. Requests for assistance may be refused if the provision of information:

  • imposes a disproportionate administrative burden;
  • is contrary to the laws or administrative practices of the requested EU country;
  • leads to the disclosure of commercial, industrial or professional secrets;
  • is against public policy.

Information communicated on the basis of this regulation is covered by the obligation of official secrecy and is protected under the national law of the EU country that received it. Therefore, this information may only be used for clearly specified purposes, such as:

  • establishing the assessment base;
  • collection or administrative control of tax (for the purpose of establishing the assessment base);
  • assessment of other levies, duties and taxes covered by Article 2 of Council Directive 76/308/EEC; and
  • in connection with judicial proceedings that may involve penalties, initiated as a result of infringements of tax law (the documents may be invoked as evidence).

Context

This regulation belongs to a series of tax harmonisation measures taken to complete the internal market.

In the interests of facilitating contacts between local and/or national tax authorities to combat fraud more effectively, this regulation brings together into a single legal instrument and reinforces the provisions of the Directive on mutual assistance by competent authorities in the field of direct and indirect taxation and the Regulation on administrative cooperation in the field of indirect taxation.

On 7 October 2010, the Council adopted Regulation (EU) No 904/2010 which repeals the current Regulation on 1 January 2012. However, chapter V (with the exception of Article 27, paragraph 4) remains applicable until 31 December 2012. Certain provisions from the new Regulation entered into force on 1 November 2010, others will apply from 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2015.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1798/2003

1.1.2004

-

OJ L 264 of 15.10.2003

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EC) No 885/2004

1.5.2004

-

OJ L 168 of 1.5.2004

Regulation (EC) No 1791/2006

1.1.2007

-

OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006

Regulation (EC) No 143/2008

20.2.2008

-

OJ L 44 of 20.2.2008

Regulation (EC) No 37/2009

1.1.2010

-

OJ L 14 of 20.1.2009

Regulation (EU) No 904/2010

1.11.2010

-

OJ L 268 of 12.10.2010

RELATED ACTS

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1174/2009 of 30 November 2009 laying down rules for the implementation of Articles 34a and 37 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1798/2003 as regards refunds of value added tax under Council Directive 2008/9/EC [Official Journal L 314 of 1.12.2009].

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 18 August 2009 on the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 1798/2003 concerning administrative cooperation in the field of value added tax [COM(2009) 428 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1925/2004 of 29 October 2004 laying down detailed rules for implementing certain provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No 1798/2003 concerning administrative cooperation in the field of value-added tax [Official Journal L 331 of 5.11.2004].
This regulation establishes the categories of information to be exchanged without prior request, the frequency with which such exchanges must take place and other rules for implementing certain provisions of Regulation (EC) No 1798/2003.

Last updated: 08.09.2011

See also

  • The website of the European Commission Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union: value added tax
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