The released policy contained a number of strategic and operational priorities in order to modernize Belgium’s customs legislation, as well as to implement 100 percent electronic customs procedures by the end of 2014.
A number of VAT-measures were also listed, in particular with respect to the import-VAT deferral license (i.e. the so-called ET 14.000 import license). This license allows the VAT-taxpayer to settle import-VAT through its periodic VAT return (a VAT-neutral operation), instead of pre-financing these amounts to the customs authorities at the point of import.
We have outlined below a chronological overview of the latest VAT-developments in this area.
Until 2012, such a license was subject to the payment of a cash deposit equal to 1/24th of the VAT due on the actual imports made during the four quarters preceding the application, (the import amount is subject to annual review and adjustment).
To eliminate this competitive disadvantage (which was not required in neighboring countries), the federal government abolished the obligation to place a cash deposit as from 1 January 2013. This means that all holders of such licenses can now reclaim cash deposits previously paid over through their Belgian VAT-returns, as from this date until December 2016 (new applications were already exempted of deposit as from 1 October 2012).
Simplified application conditions
In addition to the abolition of this deposit payment, the application conditions for an import license were also simplified and legalized through a new article 5 of royal Decree Nr. 7 entering into force 4 July 2013 (previously the application conditions and application procedure were both left to the discretion of the Belgian VAT-authorities).
Regular imports of goods are also no longer required and a VAT-taxpayer can now apply for an import license if he or she proves that imports have taken place in the past, or are expected in the near future. Provided all VAT compliance is properly filed over the last four quarters, and no outstanding VAT-debts exist, such an import-license should be granted within a month of the filing of the application. The period for which the license is valid is not limited in time but it can however be revoked or cancelled under certain conditions.
Extension of this regime to global representatives
An important addition to the revised article 5 of royal Decree Nr. 7 is that the import license regime is now extended to global representatives, and to 796.5 VAT-numbers.
Such VAT-numbers allow their holders (often shipping agents or logistics partners) to represent foreign VAT-taxpayers under their VAT-number, yet only for import transactions followed by supplies of the imported goods.
Holders of a 796.5 VAT-number can now also apply for an import license as from 4 July 2013 under similar conditions as those applying to regular VAT-taxpayers. Hence, both a VAT-registration, and the pre-financing of import-VAT can be avoided by foreign VAT-taxpayers who are represented locally in Belgium (e.g. by shipping agents, logistics providers).
It is expected that additional clarification will be provided to global representatives with regard to the evidence required to support the application of VAT-exemption to Intra Community transactions. Furthermore the VAT-authorities are currently investigating how global trade can be stimulated through the use of global representation. Concrete measures in this respect remain unclear.