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Updated : 24/01/2017

VAT – Value Added Tax

Pay VAT in the country where you shop

As a private individual shopping in the EU, you should only pay VAT once, in the country where you make your purchase.

You can bring home anything you buy in another EU country, without stopping at the border or making a customs declaration. The only condition is that your purchases must be for your own or your family's personal use, and not intended for resale.

Exception for telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services

VAT on telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services is charged in the country where you live (the country where you are established, have your permanent address or usually live), and not in the country from where you purchase the service. These rules apply to services supplied both within and from outside the EU.

Sample story

VAT on digital content is from the country of residence

Senta, lives in Sweden and purchases eBooks from a Finnish online book seller. The Finnish supplier must charge her Swedish and not Finnish VAT.

Buying online from another EU country

Special rules may apply when you buy goods from another EU country for delivery to your country of residence. If the company you buy from sells goods over a certain value to your country, where the goods are delivered, they cannot charge VAT in the country where you make your purchase.

Instead, they have to apply VAT in the country where the goods are delivered – VAT of destination. The total ceiling for cross-border sales is set by each EU country at EUR 35 000 or EUR 100 000. This means that most major online retailers delivering within the EU will have to apply the VAT of destination rule.

Sample story

Sometimes you may pay a higher VAT rate

Lucie, from Belgium, orders a book from a large online retailer in the UK. When she pays for the order and enters her address, she notices that the price has suddenly gone up. She checks the reason and discovers that the company has charged her Belgian VAT at 6% instead of UK VAT at 0%.

In Belgium, the threshold for the country of destination rule to apply is EUR 35 000. This means that a company who sold more than EUR 35 000 in goods to Belgium during the previous financial year must apply the VAT rate of the country of destination. The company Lucie has ordered from delivers frequently to Belgium and therefore has to charge her Belgian VAT, even though her book is being shipped from the UK.

Exception for cars

For new cars bought in another EU country, VAT is paid in the country where you import and register your car (your country of residence).

A new car means one which has travelled less than 6 000 km or is less than 6months old. This VAT scheme also applies to other new means of transport, such as large motorbikes, boats and aircraft.

For used cars and other second-hand vehicles bought from a private person, the VAT will already have been paid by the original buyer in the country of purchase. You should therefore not pay VAT for a used car bought from a private person, either in the country where you buy it, or the country where you register it.

A used car means one which is more than 6months old and has travelled more than 6 000 km.

For new and used cars, you will still need to pay the local fee for registering your car in your country of residence.

Find out more about your rights when you buy a car in another EU country.

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