First and the most important fact: These rules are mandatory for any kind of ebusiness, no matter where it is established or has a nexus: in EU, US, China, India, Australia, Switzerland. As soon as a company provides eservices to a non VAT registered EU customer (regardless whether the customer is a legal or a natural person) it is bound by these rules, regardless whether it has a “physical” presence, server or agent in the EU. The customer’s location is the only thing that matters.
Ordering goods per internet that are sent directly to your home has become increasingly popular these days. It’s easier, more convenient and you can do it while riding a bus or waiting for your dentist appointment. While you could already buy clothes from catalogues decades ago, you can even do your groceries shopping via your smart phone today. But what are the tax obstacles in this area for companies offering those services within the EU?
The final report of the Low Value Parcel Processing Taskforce (“the Taskforce”) was recently released by the Australian authorities.
In a previous report in 2011 the Productivity Commission found that the low value import exemption threshold for GST and duty on imported goods (currently set at AUD 1’000) was not the main factor affecting the international competitiveness of Australian retailers (this is a totally opposite conclusion than the one made by the EU – see here for more info) . The Productivity Commission advised that there could be grounds to reduce the low value import relief threshold, but it is not cost-effective to do so without streamlining the procedure of processing low value parcels.
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Ecommerce in Asia is booming. China alone is forecast to grow to an over US $350 billion industry by 2016. While some markets may already be considered mature (Australia, for example), the growth of internet connectivity and consumer purchasing power cannot be ignored by either small-to-medium enterprises or multi-national corporations looking to reach new consumers.
Ultimately, e-commerce is likely to continue growing because it can more easily provide a wide variety of products at lower prices and greater flexibility to customers, which in turn leads to an enhanced shopping experience.
To provide clarity on the Goods and Services Tax (“GST”) treatment for e-commerce transactions, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (“IRAS”) has issued a new e-tax guide: “GST: Guide for e-Commerce”.
The e-tax guide clarifies that the medium through which a transaction occurs does not alter the taxability of the transaction. In other words, a supply of goods or services made via the Internet or other electronic media is no different from that made via traditional methods. As such, a GST-registered business is required to charge and account for GST on such transactions, as applicable. The e-tax guide also provides guidance on the GST treatment for the supply of physical goods, digitised goods and services made via the Internet and other electronic media.
What does this mean for you?
If you do business in Singapore and also have a GST registration, you should be aware that GST should be applied to all goods that are ordered or delivered on-line.
PwC surveyed 7,005 consumers worldwide, including 1,000 respondents from Switzerland. The single biggest conclusion that we drew from our study is that consumers are outpacing traditional retailers and online pure-players are closing the gap. Consumers choose the channel that best suits their needs, doing their research predominantly online for products before buying the product in a store. Besides company websites, more and more consumers are researching and following brands via social media.
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Satit Rungkasiri, the director-general of the Revenue Department, said he was reluctant to impose harsh measures on the mostly young entrepreneurs who operate e-commerce sites. Authorities in fact want to encourage the growth of e-commerce as trade barriers fall with the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. Mr Satit said: Find out more
In 2015 all European countries will charge VAT on all eservices provided to their residents no matter where the eservice provider will be located (i.e. in Europe, America, Asia or elsewhere). This will be the result of the new B2C VAT rules and the technology which will enable to enforce these new rules. The VAT taxation will lead to increased sales prices of digital products (by as much as 27%) and/or decreased the profit margin for the e-businesses. In addition compliance and admin costs will increase as a result of increased tax compliance and reporting procedures. All this will directly impact the profit line. Alternative is even worse – e-businesses not willing to register and charge VAT will be shut out of the European market.
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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has recently passed a decision in a Case C‑454/10 Oliver Jestel regarding the question of who is liable for the payment of customs duties when goods are imported into the EU. The case involved an Online shop within the EU, where the shop owner was acting as an intermediary between the fraudulent seller and the customers. ECJ has essentially deemed that the shop owner is co-liable for the payment of the costumes duties and import VAT, which should have been paid (but were not) be the foreign seller, as the shop owner should have been aware that the seller is selling goods illegally imported into the EU.
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