Six possible dates for leaving EU VAT regime

Businessman across the cliff
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Richard Asquith spells out the possible timetable for when the UK becomes a third country with regard to the EU VAT regime. 

When the UK leaves the EU VAT regime on Brexit, an estimated 132,000 UK companies, and many more EU businesses trading with the UK, may lose many of the VAT reporting simplifications and cash flow advantages. The main changes for UK companies after will include:

Distance selling registration threshold

An estimated 27,000 online retailers currently sell goods to EU consumers through their UK VAT number under the distance selling thresholds. These thresholds would not be available after Brexit, and so those companies would have to register for VAT in each country within the EU or cease to sell in that country.

UK import VAT and duties

Currently, business to business (B2B) purchases of goods bought from the EU are zero-rated for VAT and there are no duties due. After Brexit, there will be an obligation to pay VAT, generally at 20%, on any goods bought from the rest of the EU. However, the UK may introduce a VAT deferment scheme, which would eliminate the cash payment of the import VAT. Any sales of UK to goods to the other EU states would also in future attract import VAT in the countries of the customers.


Since 2015, sellers of electronic services (eg streaming media, games, apps, e-books) to consumers have been able to report all their EU sales via a single return to HMRC under the VAT MOSS rules. After Brexit, such businesses would have to complete a new registration in one of the remaining EU states (possibly Ireland) to continue to take advantage of this simplification.

Fiscal representation

Where a UK company registers for VAT in 19 of the remaining 27 EU member states, it will require a special type of local VAT agent. This ‘fiscal representative’ is jointly liable for any unpaid VAT, so typical demands high compliance fees and a bank guarantees from the trader.

When will these changes take effect?

The date for these significant changes to kick in is still uncertain as the UK’s withdrawal talks proceed. Below are six scenarios and dates for this momentous tax overhaul.

  1. 29 March 2019: Hard Brexit

On 29 March 2019, the UK is set to leave the European Union by operation of the law. This follows the UK’s triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on 29 March 2017, which started a two-year exit timetable. Since no withdrawal agreement has yet been agreed – meaning a ‘Hard Brexit’ – this is the current departure date for the UK leaving the EU VAT system.

  1. 31 December 2020: EU’s transition offer

The EU has offered the UK a 21-month transition period following the 29 March 2019 Brexit date. During this time, the UK will still remain within the EU VAT regime, including having to accept rule changes and still being subject to rulings of the European Court of Justice. The 31 December 2020 date was set by the EU to coincide with the ending of its five-year budgetary cycle.

  1. 29 March 2021: UK’s transition offer

Last year, the UK’s Conservative government requested a two year transition period following Brexit. This means an exit date of 29 March 2021. Until this date, the UK will still be trading within the EU indirect tax system, see above.

  1. 22 November 2022: UK Finance Act

The EU has plans to introduce a Common EU VAT regime in 2022. If the UK is still in the EU VAT regime at this point, it would have to decide whether to join the new regime. If it doesn’t, and the UK left at this point, this would be crystallised in the Finance Act 2022, which generally receives Royal Assent around the 22 November each year.

  1. 29 March 2023: Implementation extension

The discussions around a two year transition period overlook the fact that, since the future trading relationship with the EU won’t be known when it starts, UK and EU companies cannot in fact transition to the new trade rules. The transition will therefore in effect be a standstill period. This implies that a real, further two year implementation period will be required to allow businesses to shift to the eventual new trading rules.

  1. Never: Reversal of the June 2016 referendum result

An unlikely event. But, for example, if the UK government loses the Autumn 2018 Withdrawal Bill vote by a Labour opposition and Tories rebel defeat, then a second referendum could be called. In this case, the EU would be likely to permit an Article 50 extension to allow time for that vote. In the event of a “remain” decision second time around, then the UK would remain within the EU and within the EU VAT system.

About Richard Asquith

Richard Asquith

Richard Asquith is the VP of Global Indirect Tax at Avalara, a global transaction tax technology company. He leads Avalara’s outsourced international VAT compliance service. Richard originally qualified at KPMG in the UK, and then spent over ten years with EY in Hungary, Russia and France.


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08th Mar 2018 18:56

Given that we will not have VAT quite as we know it after Brexit, April 2019 must be the worst possible time to introduce MTD for VAT. Has this been thought through? Thought not.

Thanks (1)
By Tornado
to jon_griffey
08th Mar 2018 22:53

It's OK Jon, the MTD for VAT software (yet to be created) will effortlessly deal with all of this for everyone.

Thanks (4)
By 0098087
to jon_griffey
12th Mar 2018 10:47

Why should HMRC care, All it is is fines, fines and more fines

Thanks (0)
By RedFive
09th Mar 2018 10:50

"Fiscal representation:
Where a UK company registers for VAT in 19 of the remaining 27 EU member states, it will require a special type of local VAT agent. This ‘fiscal representative’ is jointly liable for any unpaid VAT, so typical demands high compliance fees and a bank guarantees from the trader."

Where is this stipulated?

I have registered clients in France and Germany for VAT (due to exceeding threshold) and undertake the VAT returns myself each month electronically - no fiscal representative required.

Also, I agree with Jon. Though the answer is easy, of course it has not been thought through. When VAT won't speak to PAYE, or CT won't talk to SA et al, how can one imagine the plutocrats thinking this stuff up in their silos have any idea what the others are doing and how it will impact?

Thanks (1)
to RedFive
11th Mar 2018 06:40

Non-EU companies (which will apply to UK businesses after Brexit) are required to appoint fiscal representatives for their VAT registration and returns. This applies in 19 of the current 28 member states.

Thanks (0)
By 0098087
12th Mar 2018 10:46

Whole thing is insanity. No certainty. How can we plan when we can't even sort out the border between the north and south. If this was a Labour govt the press would destroy them.

Thanks (1)
12th Mar 2018 12:43

Trouble is these days, the press knows as little about stuff as those in Government do. Idiocracy is on the rise.

It's been a couple of years since the Establishment was given a massive kick in the balls by the plebescite and it still hasn't woken them up.

Thanks (1)
By Vince54
16th Mar 2018 16:08

The fourth date (November 2022) doesn't take account of the revised Budgetary cycle. Depending on when in 2022 the Common EU Vat regime takes effect, the dates are likely to be either 15 March 2022 (going off FA 2018) when Royal Assent is given to FA 2022 or 15 March 2023 when Royal Assent is given to FA 2023.

Of course nothing to stop a second FA in 2022 but this seems to go against what was announced in the allegedly final Spring Budget in March 2017

Thanks (0)