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.
If you experience difficulties with public authorities, you can request assistance from our help and advice services.
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.
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). Compliance with national, European or international standards may also be required.
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.
Questions on a specific country?
Telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services
If you supply telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services, these services will usually be taxed in the country where the customer belongs.
For a business customer, it is the country where the business is established or has fixed premises where this establishment receives service.
For non-taxable persons, it is the place where they are established, have a permanent address or usually reside.
Special rules for low annual turnovers
There are some exceptions; these simplified rules mean you can choose to apply the VAT rules of your own EU country (i.e. where you are established, have your permanent address or usually reside) if you meet the following criteria:
- you are established, have your permanent address or usually reside in only one EU country
- you supply telecommunications, broadcasting or electronic services to non-taxable consumers who are established, have their permanent address or usually reside in another EU country
- the total value of your supplies of telecommunications, broadcasting or electronic services does not exceed EUR 10 000 (exclusive of VAT) in the current calendar year, nor did it do so in the preceding calendar year
In this case, you won't need to register, file VAT returns and make payments in each of the EU countries where your customers reside (nor register for the MOSS scheme). Instead, you charge VAT to your customers at the rate in your country, and pay and declare that VAT to the tax authorities in your country.
If you benefit from a special scheme for small businesses in your country that allows you to exempt your supplies from VAT up to a certain threshold, this also applies to your supplies of telecommunications, broadcasting or electronic services.
There is no difference between customers anywhere in the EU
While you are free to define your general terms and conditions of sale, all your EU-based customers must have the same access to services (provided at your premises or electronically supplied services) as your local customers. If you offer a special price, promotion or sales conditions, these should be made available to all your customers irrespective of which EU country they are located in, their nationality, place of residence or business location.
The rules apply to online and offline transactions as long as the sales are to the end user (an individual or business that doesn't have the intention to re-sell, transform, process, rent or subcontract their purchases). The rules do not apply to audio-visual services. For other copyright-protected on-line content, limitations due to territorial copyright limitations may still apply.
Access to online interfaces
Your customers must be able to access any version of your website they want, for example, if they type in the Spanish URL of your website and they are connecting from Italy they shouldn't automatically be re-directed to the Italian version. They must give you their consent before you redirect them and they have the right to withdraw their consent at any time.
Sales of electronically supplied services
If your customer is based in another EU country and wants to buy electronically supplied services from you (such as cloud services, data warehousing or website hosting), they should be able to access and register for these services in the same way as your customers based locally.
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 in your country.