Providing services abroad
If you have a registered business providing services (as an architect or tourist guide, for example) in the country where you live, you can offer those services in another EU country without setting up a company or branch there.
This can be useful if you want to:
- provide the service there only temporarily
- provide the service just to a specific client living there
- test the market before expanding your company there.
In principle, you should be able to supply services in another EU country without having to comply with all of that country's administrative procedures and rules (like obtaining prior authorisation to do business). But you may need to notify the public authorities that you will be offering services in their country.
The other country must have valid reasons for imposing its requirements.
Note: If you offer telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services, these services will always be taxed in the country where the customer belongs. For a non-taxable person it is the place where he is established, has a permanent address or usually resides. For a business customer, it is the country where the business is established or has a fixed premises where this establishment receives service.
The new VAT rules above come into force on January 1st 2015.
Despite this principle, you can't just assume you can provide services without setting up a company locally. Whether you can or not will depend mainly on how often, for how long and how regularly you want to provide services.
Also, different rules might apply to certain sectors, for example:
- financial services
- healthcare services that may only be practiced by members of a regulated health profession
- private security services
- gambling services
- notary services
- temporary work agency services.
- telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services.
If you choose to register a company in another EU country, you will have to comply with national rules for the incorporation/registration of a subsidiary company, branch or agency and most of that country's rules for setting up a business (including recognition of your professional qualifications and applying for the necessary permits).
To find out what to do in your case, ask the point of single contact in the country where you want to provide services.
The points of single contact provide information in the national language of their country. Many also provide information in other languages. The level of information and service offered can differ from one contact point to another.
There is no difference between customers anywhere in the EU
EU rules forbid discrimination between service recipients because of their nationality or where they live. This means:
- you are automatically entitled to receive services from businesses located in other EU countries
- you may not refuse or accord different treatment to prospective customers from other EU countries unless you have a valid reason to do so.
If you sell products online, you may not refuse to deliver to customers in other EU countries unless you have a valid reason. To avoid confusion, you should indicate any delivery restrictions clearly on your website.
If you have to cross a border to offer your service to a customer abroad, you might incur additional costs - for storage or to comply with administrative procedures, for instance. Such additional costs might justify higher prices to a client abroad.
Not sure what constitutes discrimination?
If you are not sure whether you're being illegally discriminated against by a trader or are yourself applying discriminatory conditions to your customers, ask the relevant contact point [178 KB] in your country.
Dig deeper, country by country: