New EU 2021 VAT Rules for E-commerce

An image showing EU VAT changes in 2021

The European Union (EU) is making important changes to its value-added tax (VAT) rules, which come into effect on July 1, 2021. This will impact businesses that sell across EU country borders (also known as distance sellers) and businesses exporting goods to buyers in the EU.

These changes will lead to simpler procedures and reduced administration, as well as possible broader implications for how merchants conduct business in the EU. This guide provides an overview of the significant changes coming and how they will impact merchants selling to buyers in the EU.

What are the changes to intra-EU distance sale of goods?

There are three major changes that impact the VAT threshold, the rate applicable for cross-border orders, and tax filing for EU businesses:

  • Ending distance selling thresholds rules. Currently, EU merchants have to register for VAT in other EU countries as soon as they reach a certain country-specific threshold. For example, €100,000 for Germany and €35,000 for France. On July 1, these distance selling thresholds will be withdrawn. Cross-border sellers will be required to charge the VAT rate of the buyer’s country of residence from their first sale, unless the micro-business threshold applies.
  • New EU-wide threshold for micro-businesses. There is a new exemption for micro-businesses established in one EU country with sales no greater than €10,000 in each of the last two years. Merchants who qualify for this exemption can continue to charge the local VAT rate of the EU country where shipment originates for all EU countries they ship to, and continue remitting to their local tax authority. 
  • One-Stop Shop (OSS) filing. Merchants can now file a single VAT return known as OSS filing that works for multiple EU countries, which does not require an individual tax registration for each of those countries. Merchants can use OSS to file and remit VAT for any EU country they ship to, provided it is not their home country, or a domestic supply in a country where they have a physical location or hold stock. For these noted countries, merchants should instead continue filing a local return. OSS simplifies the filing process and saves them from the trouble of registering in multiple countries. The merchant needs to submit an electronic quarterly VAT return via their domestic OSS portal and ensure they keep records for all eligible OSS sales for 10 years.

Shopify will continue to support merchants through this change. Look for more updates on how to simplify your EU taxes and stay compliant with the new laws.

What are the changes for businesses exporting goods to buyers in the EU?

There are two major changes that will impact the VAT threshold and tax filing for non-EU businesses:

  • New €150 VAT threshold for imports. Currently, customers importing consignments valued below €22 are exempt from VAT. As of July 1, 2021, import VAT will be payable on all consignments up to €150, and import VAT, as well as duties, will continue to apply above this threshold. Online merchants can opt to collect VAT on low-value consignments at the point of sale rather than paying import VAT. If they choose to instead apply DDU (delivery duty unpaid), import VAT will be due by the customer. This VAT will be paid by the postal operator/customs agent on behalf of the customer, and additional brokerage fees may be required as well. In case of distance sales of imported goods with a value of €150 facilitated by OMP (online marketplaces)/platform, the OMP/platform will become liable for VAT on those sales. Please note that Shopify is not a facilitating OMP/platform.
  • Import One-Stop Shop (IOSS) filing. Merchants who choose to collect VAT on low-value goods can use the newly introduced Import OSS (IOSS) to file a single monthly VAT return for all exports to the EU not supplied via a facilitating OMP/platform.  Using IOSS is optional. Non-EU merchants opting to use IOSS may need to appoint a fiscal representative.

Shopify will continue to support merchants through this change. Look for more updates on how to simplify your EU taxes and stay compliant with the new laws.

Electronic interfaces 

Electronic interfaces that “facilitate” sales of goods to consumers in the EU may have additional VAT collection and reporting obligations, as they will be deemed to buy and resell those goods where: 

  • The goods are shipped from outside of the EU to a consumer in the EU in a consignment with an intrinsic value not exceeding €150; or,
  • The goods are shipped within the EU to a consumer and the seller of the goods is a non-EU established business.

    Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    1. How can I register for OSS?

    Each EU member state will have an online OSS portal where you can register. This single registration will be valid for all sales to consumers in other EU member states where you don’t have a physical presence.

    2. In which EU country should I register for OSS?

      EU merchants must register in their country of establishment. Non-EU merchants should, in principle, register in the country where the transport starts. If goods are shipped from multiple EU countries, the non-EU merchant may choose the EU country where they want to register.

      3. What should I do to use the OSS?

      If you use OSS you should: 

      • Apply the VAT rate of the member state where the goods are dispatched to or where the services are taxable
      • Collect VAT from the buyer on intra-EU distance sales of goods or on supplies of services
      • Submit an electronic quarterly VAT return via the OSS portal of the member state where you are registered for OSS
      • Make a quarterly payment of the VAT declared in the VAT return to the member state where you are registered for OSS
      • Keep records of all eligible OSS sales receipts
      4. Why should I register for OSS as an EU merchant?

      Registering for OSS simplifies the filing process and saves you from registering in multiple countries.

      5. Does VAT apply to orders including tax or excluding tax?

      The €150 threshold is exclusive of tax and is only for the value of goods (excluding transport and insurance costs, unless they are included in the price and not indicated separately on the invoice). 

      6. Why should I register for IOSS as a non-EU merchant selling into the EU?

      For merchants who opt to collect VAT at checkout on low-value goods from buyers throughout the EU, IOSS will allow single return filing. Additionally, imported goods will likely be processed faster by the customs authorities (or maybe even “green laned”). Without IOSS, shipments could be stopped at the border for valuation checks that may result in delivery delays and/or additional VAT assessments.

      7. I am not sure how the recent EU VAT changes impact my business. What should I do?

      If you are unsure of how these changes impact your business, you should contact the European Union or a tax consultant. You may also want to appoint a representative such as a lawyer or accountant responsible for your tax reporting and payment. 

      8. How can I get help to get VAT registered and file my VAT?

      Here are a few service providers that can help you get VAT registered and file your VAT returns. 

      9. Is Shopify a marketplace or facilitator?

      Shopify is neither a marketplace nor a facilitator. 

      Where can I learn more?