The 2016 European Commission VAT Action Plan: Weaknesses of a Clearing System and Possible Alternatives

The European Commission VAT Action Plan suggests taxing intra-Community supplies of goods at the rate of the country of destination: the supplier would remit the VAT to his tax authorities, which in turn would transfer the tax collected to the tax authorities of the country of destination. Such a system is an extension of the one-stop shop regime applicable to e-services in place since 2003 and 2015 and it presents similarities with the proposal of taxation in the country of origin submitted by the Commission in 1987. At that time, this proposal was rejected because it required trust between tax authorities, caused currency exchange problems and gave financial advantages to a few large export Member States. The author suggests that these objections are still valid in 2016 and that they are specifically linked to the clearing system. A possible alternative would be to tax intra-Community transactions without clearing. Today, this is possible thanks to the various improvements in the European VAT system since 1991.