What is VAT-OSS? Changes to VAT settlements in the EU in 2021 for online retailers – Amazon, eBay, online shops

Tomasz Połeć
Updated: 10 November 2021

The VAT-OSS (Value Added Tax – One-Stop-Shop) procedure, in force from the 1st of July 2021, facilitates the distance selling of goods between EU countries.
Will this really remove the obligation to register for VAT in other EU countries?

In this article, you will find answers to the following questions:

  • What is VAT-OSS, which was introduced in the EU in 2021?
  • Who will be able to make settlements via the VAT-OSS system?
  • How to prepare for VAT-OSS?
  • VAT-OSS versus FBA sales and the storage of goods in other countries.
  • What are the new VAT rules on online trade in the EU in 2021?

What is VAT-OSS?

VAT-OSS (Value Added Tax – One-Stop-Shop) is an extension of the VAT-MOSS (Value Added Tax – Mini-One-Stop-Shop) procedure.
The procedure consists in a simplified VAT settlement for companies whose business includes
the sale of digital goods and services over the internet.

VAT-MOSS, the predecessor of VAT-OSS

VAT-MOSS is an abbreviation for the English name of the Mini-One-Stop-Shop procedure.
You can understand it as a mini shop for comprehensive service or, less literally, a single window procedure.

The implementation of the VAT-MOSS procedure was linked to a change in the tax rules for online services (telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services) for natural persons not paying VAT.
These services were taxed in the country of residence of the recipients of the services.
In order to limit the VAT registration obligation in individual countries, it was decided to introduce a simplified procedure – VAT MOSS.

The VAT-MOSS procedure was voluntary, i.e.
entities that provided digital services for individuals living in different countries of the EU could – but did not have to – use the simplified procedure.
However, if companies did not apply for the procedure, they had to register for VAT in the individual countries to which they sold those services.

VAT-OSS – facilitation of the VAT settlement

VAT-OSS is a procedure that allows for the settlement of distance sales to other EU countries within a single collective declaration.

On the 1st of July 2021, with the introduction of the VAT-OSS procedure, distance sales thresholds to EU countries were modified.
Instead of separate national thresholds, a single limit of 10,000 EUR was introduced for the whole of the EU.
This limit should be calculated as the total value of shipments to other EU countries (and not individual EU countries).

In practice, a company making distance sales to other countries of the EU, after exceeding the above sales threshold, is obliged to register for VAT in the countries to which it sends the goods.
It must also submit VAT declarations in those countries and make timely payments to their tax offices.

After the introduction of the VAT-OSS procedure, the sellers can conduct VAT settlements by submitting a single declaration in the country in which they are established (e.g. in the Polish office).
It does not matter that sales are made to several countries of the European Union.

Before you decide to use the VAT-OSS procedure, check if you are actually required to settle VAT.
If your sales do not exceed the limit of 10,000 EUR you can settle VAT at the VAT rate of the country from which you are shipping the goods.
As a result, you will have less paperwork to deal with.

Please note that this procedure applies only to transactions between EU countries and does not apply, for example, to the UK or Switzerland.

Can VAT-OSS be applied only in selected countries?

The provisions in place are clear on this issue.
When you decide to apply VAT-OSS, you have to include all of your sales.

What does that mean?
Let us suppose you sell your goods to consumers in the Czech Republic, Austria and Italy.
When you choose to use the VAT simplification, it will apply to all countries to which you are shipping the goods.
You cannot choose, for example, to settle transactions with customers from the Czech Republic in the manner you settled before, and only apply VAT-OSS to customers from Austria and Italy.

However, if you do not register for the VAT-OSS procedure, you will have to register for VAT in each country to which you are sending the goods.

Who can use the VAT-OSS procedure?

VAT-OSS is a major simplification for all entrepreneurs who provide services and sell goods online to customers in the European Union.
Thanks to the regulations introduced, you will no longer have to register for VAT separately in each of the 27 Member States.
The VAT-OSS procedure resolves the issue.

If you are thinking of expanding your business to foreign markets, but so far you have been afraid of the complications related to the different regulations concerning the obligation to pay tax in individual EU countries, you will probably be very pleased to hear about the introduction of VAT-OSS.

Which industries does the VAT-OSS procedure apply to?

VAT-OSS not only facilitates trade within the EU, but it also simplifies the submission of VAT declarations.
You can use the VAT-OSS procedure if:

  • you are conducting distance sales of goods within the EU,
  • you provide services to private individuals who are taxed in other EU countries.

In practice, this principle mainly concerns the provision of electronic services so far covered by the VAT- MOSS procedure.

Is VAT-OSS mandatory?

The regulation introduced (like the earlier VAT- MOSS) is not mandatory.
If you want to, you can settle VAT in other EU countries.
However, this entails the obligation to register for VAT in each EU country to which goods purchased by private individuals are dispatched.

The VAT-OSS procedure allows the settlement of VAT within a single collective declaration for all EU countries.

Does VAT-OSS include B2B transactions?

The VAT-OSS procedure is only for businesses which sell their goods or provide services to individual customers, that is, persons who do not engage in economic activities.

If the goods you sell are ordered by consumers (for example, Mr. X living in Germany), you can use VAT-OSS.
However, if you send merchandise to another company (for example the order comes from Mr. Y from France who runs a company for which he places the order with you), then the VAT-OSS regulations do not cover this transaction.

How long must the VAT-OSS records be kept for?

Each taxpayer who chooses to use the simplified VAT settlement system must keep a record of transactions and store the records for 10 years (after the end of a given tax year).
The failure to do so will result in specific sanctions imposed by competent tax authorities.

The information which the taxpayer must include in the said records includes:

  • member state of consumption,
  • type of service provided / description of goods dispatched,
  • the date of service/delivery,
  • the tax base,
  • amounts increasing or decreasing the tax base,
  • the VAT rate applied,
  • the amount of VAT including the currency,
  • the date and amount of the payments received,
  • information on advance payments,
  • if an invoice was issued, the information contained therein,
  • if a service was provided, information on the place of registered office or permanent residence of the recipient (or place of stay) and, in the case of the sale of goods, the place of origin and receipt of the consignment,
  • confirmations regarding the option to return the goods.

The taxpayer is also required to make available the collected records at the request of both the Member State of identification (the country of fixed business activity) and at the request of the Member State of consumption (the country to which the goods are dispatched).

The records kept are to be made available electronically.
In special cases – where, for example, due to technical problems, this method is not possible – you can make the records available in another way.
Guidelines covering such special cases are made available by the tax authority.

VAT-OSS and Amazon FBM

The introduction of the VAT-OSS system is a major simplification for those who sell their goods on Amazon in the FBM model.
FBM stands for Fulfillment by Merchant.
This describes a sales model in which it is the responsibility of the seller to organise the shipping process and after-sales customer service.
A person selling a specific item is responsible for such matters as:

  • storage of goods,
  • packing the order for shipment,
  • shipment of the package to the recipient,
  • handling claims and returns.

This is also the case when selling via eBay or other sales platforms.
Thanks to VAT-OSS, you will not have to register for VAT in each EU country to which you sell your goods.
Instead, it is sufficient to register for VAT in the country from which the goods are dispatched, to file the VAT declarations and to pay the VAT at a single tax office.

You are not obliged to register for VAT in the countries to which you send your goods.
In principle, all sales can be settled under the VAT-OSS procedure.
You have to submit your local VAT declaration in the countries where the goods are stored.

VAT-OSS and Amazon FBA

Another model of sale is Amazon FBA, that is, Fulfillment by Amazon.
In this case, you are only involved in the organisation of the sales (obtaining customers), and all logistics related to the storage of goods, packaging, shipping and handling returns is the responsibility of Amazon.

Unfortunately, in the case of the FBA model you cannot apply all simplifications under the VAT-OSS procedure.
In particular, if you sell your goods in the FBA model, the goods are stored in many EU countries and you are required to register and account for VAT (IDG/ICA) in these countries.

You are obliged to register for VAT in the countries in which Amazon stores the goods.
The VAT-OSS procedure concerns only distance sales between EU countries.
The foreign VAT returns still need to include such information as
the movement of goods between Amazon’s warehouses, local (national) sales and sales to other VAT payers.
However, the introduction of the VAT-OSS procedure will help avoid the need to register for VAT in other countries where Amazon does not store goods (e.g. Austria or Belgium).

VAT-OSS and the settlement by the sales platform

Until the 30th of June 2021, small consignments (not exceeding 22.00 EUR) of goods imported into the EU were exempt from VAT.
Changes to EU law have introduced new regulations in this respect.
From the 1st of July 2021, all consignments, regardless of their value, have been subject to VAT.

The VAT-OSS procedure has been available since the same date.
Sales platforms – such as eBay, Amazon – are required to collect VAT on sales if the goods are shipped from outside the EU or the seller is not established in the EU (for orders up to 150.00 EUR – import VAT at the border will be charged on orders above this amount).
The sales platform is also obliged to settle the tax collected with specific national offices.

VAT-OSS – how to use it?

In order to use the VAT-OSS procedure, you have to submit an application for the VAT-OSS procedure in the tax office in the country of establishment.
In Poland, the application is submitted using the VAT VIU-R form.

Where should the declaration of applying for VAT-OSS be submitted?

If you are an entrepreneur with business activity registered in Poland, you apply for VAT-OSS in Poland.

Entities interested in tax facilitation could declare their wish to use this solution as early as the 1st of April 2021, that was, a few months before the settlement system entered into force.
However, because of a delay in the legislative process, registration could not be made before the 30th of June 2021.
The VAT amendment was only published in the Journal of Laws on the 28th of June 2021 and it entered into force on the 1st of July 2021.

Polish entrepreneurs, if they wish to apply for tax simplification resulting from VAT-OSS, are obliged to file an appropriate declaration to the Head of the Second Tax Office Warszawa-Śródmieście.

For your convenience you do not need to go to the capital to join VAT-OSS.
You make a declaration on the VIU-R form remotely via the e-Deklaracje system (however, a qualified electronic signature is required).

When should the VAT-OSS registration declaration be submitted?

Companies who have exceeded the sales limit of goods or services set at 10,000 EUR before the 1st of July 2021 should have registered for VAT-OSS by the 10th of August 2021.
The same applies to entrepreneurs who exceeded the limit in the previous year.
If such a declaration was submitted on the 11th of August 2021 unfortunately the use of the VAT-OSS procedure will only have been possible from the 1st of October 2021.
In such a case, you will have needed to register for VAT in the country where you have made the sales or you will have needed to stop selling to these countries until the beginning of the next quarter, i.e. the 1st of October 2021.

As a general rule, you can join the VAT-OSS system from the beginning of the quarter following that in which the taxpayer informs the Office that it intends to use this procedure.
However, if the first delivery of goods or services to be placed under a non-EU procedure or an EU procedure is made before that date [before the first day of the following quarter], the special procedure shall apply from the date of such delivery or provision of services, provided that the taxpayer informs the member state of identification of the commencement of its activity to be covered by the procedure no later than on the 10th day of the month following that first delivery of goods or services.

Importantly, registration for VAT-OSS does not exempt you from applying VAT rates applicable to the specific Member States.
When you sell goods to German customers, for example, you must apply the rates in force in Germany even though you are settling in Poland.
If you are not sure which VAT rates to apply in a specific country, you can easily check this on the website provided by the EC.

The tax rate base for EEC countries is available at: https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/tedb/splSearchForm.html

What is the deadline for submitting the tax declaration?

Settlement under VAT-OSS procedure means submitting one quarterly tax declaration for all distance sales made within the European Union.
You submit such a declaration by the last day of the month following the respective accounting quarter.

The declaration should include:

  • all member states of consumption (of the receipt of goods),
  • the VAT rates applied,
  • the tax base for a given VAT rate,
  • the amount of VAT.

Please also note that the amounts of tax entered in the declaration should be expressed in euros.
What if payments for the services rendered or goods sold were settled in another currency?
Then you have to convert them into euros.
For conversion, apply the exchange rate as published by the European Central Bank.
In preparing the settlement, the applicable exchange rate is from the last day of a given settlement period.

The cumulative payment of the VAT due will be made to the account of the tax office to which the declaration is submitted.

Questions about VAT-OSS?
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What are the benefits of VAT-OSS?

The regulation introduced on the 1st of July 2021 considerably simplifies the rules on VAT settlements for companies who sell goods to consumers (who are not VAT payers) living in EU countries.

If up until now you had to register as a VAT payer in each country where you sold the goods, the obligation to do so will not apply to you if you use VAT-OSS.
You will be able to pay the tax in Poland.

The procedures to which the regulations introduced are applicable include:

  • the abolition of the VAT registration obligation in the Member States (the voluntary nature of such registration still remains),
  • the establishment of a uniform limit of sales (both for the sale of goods and for the provision of electronic, broadcasting and telecommunications services); it amounts to 10,000 EUR,
  • the settlement of the tax on goods and services in Poland (for domestic companies selling goods to consumers in the EU).

It is up to you to decide whether you use VAT-OSS or continue to register for VAT in each country to which you sell the goods.
Many more entrepreneurs will certainly use this simplified procedure.
Less paperwork means less accounting and therefore real savings for your business.

Please note that you may still be obliged to register for VAT in other EU countries if you store your goods there (e.g. using the Amazon FBA model).

VAT-IOSS – Import One-Stop-Shop

VAT-IOSS is a new proposal within the VAT e-commerce package.
This is an import procedure.
It includes distance sales of goods imported from other countries.
The value of the consignment may not exceed 150.00 EUR.

This procedure simplifies the payment of VAT.
It is only necessary to register for VAT purposes in one EU Member State.
You can submit the tax declaration at a VAT one-stop shop.
As in the case of VAT-OSS, the rates applicable in the VAT-IOSS procedure are specific to the consumer’s country.
Read more about the VAT-IOSS procedure soon on our blog.

Need tax or IT support for implementing VAT-OSS?
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