29 February 2016

The Belgian VAT Authorities recently published a new Decision (Decision nr. ET 128.714 of 9 February 2016) on the interpretation of the notion “transport by or on behalf of the supplier” in regard of distance sales.

Distance sales

According to regulation on distance sales, applying to a.o. traditional mail order companies and web shops, the VAT is to be accounted for in the country of arrival of the goods, when the goods are transported or dispatched towards the buyer by or on behalf of the supplier and provided that the sales threshold is exceeded in hands of the supplier, as prescribed by the relevant EU Member State (the threshold in Belgium amounts to 35,000.00 EUR).

New means of transport, goods to be installed by or on behalf of the supplier and cases where the buyer should report an intra-Community acquisition of goods do not fall within the scope of this regulation.

If these conditions are met, the supplier will have to VAT register in the country of arrival of the goods. The supplier may also opt to apply the distance sales scheme immediately, without exceeding the aforementioned threshold. 

Guidelines of the EU VAT Committee

In the aforementioned VAT Decision, the VAT Authorities clearly support the guidelines of the VAT Committee as to the notion “dispatched or transported by or on behalf of the supplier”. In this respect, a merely indirect participation of the supplier in the transport already gives rise to the application of the distance sales regulation.
By all means, the supplier is deemed to organise the transport if he subcontracts a transport company, or if the transport is performed by a third party, but the responsibility towards the buyer remains (entirely or partly) in the hands of the supplier or, when the supplier invoices the transport costs to the buyer.

Also a number of other actions, such as promoting a particular transport company, placing the buyer in contact with a transport company, providing the necessary information for the supply of the goods to the transport company, etc. are included in the notion ‘transport by or on behalf of the supplier’. This interpretation prevails nearly unanimously within the VAT Committee.

The regulation on distance sales is excluded only if the supplier is not in any way involved in providing or organising the transport, which implies that the supplier can charge VAT in the country where the transport begins. 

Check sales conditions recommended

Companies performing the activities described above are recommended to investigate their sales conditions in order to assure the correct application of the VAT legislation, as these guidelines will apply in the entire EU.


Should you have any further question or require a personal advice with respect to the impact of these rules on your company, please contact your usual contact person at BDO or you may send an email to [email protected] for the attention of one of the members of the Competence Centre VAT:

  • Erwin Boumans, 02/778.01.00
  • Pascal Dauw, 09/210.54.10
  • Kaatje Bondewel, 02/778.01.00
  • Brigitte Braeckmans, 03/230.58.40
  • Joëlle Teuwen, 081/ 20 87 87