On the 1st of January 2010 new place of supply rules for services came into force (VAT package). The general rule is now that services supplied in a business-to-business (B2B) environment are taxable for VAT where the recipient of the services is established. However, a number of exceptions to this general B2B-rule still exist. An exception is amongst others foreseen for services connected to an immovable property. These services remain taxable for VAT where the immovable property is located.
Temporary tolerance for warehousing services.
With respect to warehousing services, the Belgian VAT authorities took initially the position that these services are to be considered as services connected to an immovable property whereby no distinction has to be made between the putting at the disposal of warehousing space in a passive manner and an active exploitation of warehousing space (i.e. with the provision of additional services). A number of other EU member states (amongst others France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) are by derogation of the opinion that active warehousing services are to be considered as services falling in the scope of the general B2B-rule.
These differences in interpretation between the EU member states led to situations of double taxation or of no taxation and resulted for Belgium in a competitive disadvantage. For that reason the Belgian VAT authorities decided to request the opinion of the VAT Committee and in the meanwhile, to temporarily allow the application of the general B2B-rule on warehousing services.
The VAT Committee recently published guidelines on which services are to be considered as connected to an immovable property including its (almost unanimous) opinion on warehousing services. In the case where a specific part of an immovable property is assigned for the exclusive use of the recipient of the services, the services are deemed to be connected to an immovable property. When the latter is not the case, the warehousing services fall in the scope of the general B2B-rule. The distinction between a passive or active exploitation is irrelevant according to the VAT Committee.
As the guidelines of the VAT Committee are not binding, the question remains whether Belgium and the other EU member states will adapt their point of view on the VAT treatment of warehousing services.