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The latest on the standardised EU VAT return

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VAT watchers across Europe were huddled in front of their screens [on 7 November], anxious for news from the ECOFIN meeting in Brussels. Could there finally be progress on the EU’s drive to agree on a standardised VAT return?

To recap, every year some 20m EU companies submit over 150m VAT returns. As reporting obligations vary in all 28 member states, the EU is trying to secure agreement for a standardised VAT return to make it easier for businesses to comply with the many different rules.

The UK government has been lukewarm about the idea, to say the least, and some businesses fear that the proposals could increase the administrative burden.

So was there a breakthrough in reaching consensus on this contentious issue?

The Commissioner for Taxation let it be known of his ‘disappointment at the lack of progress’ and that he was ‘not optimistic for the near future’, with a communiqué issued by the European Council following the meeting merely reading:

‘The presidency reported on ongoing work on a proposal to introduce a standard VAT return with the aim of reducing burdens on businesses, particularly SMEs. The council held a brief discussion, and the presidency agreed to reflect on the best possible way forward to enable an agreement.’

So, for now at least, the only sound emanating from Brussels is that of a can being kicked further down the road...

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