Claiming back VAT on purchase in the UK?

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Hi,

 

I'm a freelancer here in Berlin, and I'm registered for VAT. I want to buy a computer in the UK (there is a good reason for this!) - can I then claim back the VAT? Has anyone got experience of this?

 

From what I've read and been told, it sounds like I should be able to. But my tax advisor is saying that it wouldn't be accepted unless the product is actually delivered to me in Germany - but that's not possible.  (he's not being very clear though, which is why I'm also asking here!)

 

fyi the issue is that I want to buy a refurbished mac from apple, and it needs to be from the UK store to have a UK keyboard. 

 

Anyone know more about the ins and outs of buying business equipment in another EU country and then getting back the VAT?

 

Thanks!

 

Rhiannon

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10 minutes ago, ramblingr said:

Hi,

 

I'm a freelancer here in Berlin, and I'm registered for VAT. I want to buy a computer in the UK (there is a good reason for this!) - can I then claim back the VAT? 

 

Yes, but not the usual way via the Finanzamt. You can claim back the VAT in the UK via the German BZSt ('Bundeszentralamt für Steuern'). Start to read there (it's in Englisch): http://www.bzst.de/EN/Steuern_International/Vorsteuerverguetung/Vorsteuerverguetung_node.html;jsessionid=53D98CB17490AA60FB35BB7B3A58BD6A.live6812 

 

And then decide if it's worth the effort. ;) 

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Thanks for the link, I hadn't seen that. There's also useful stuff here: https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/business/vat/eu-country-specific-information-vat_en

(for anyone else reading this!)

 

I'm just confused by my tax advisor's answer about delivery in the UK not being acceptable... if anyone has experience to do with that then I'd be interested to know.

 

And on a macbook pro it is enough money to justify a fair bit of time making sure I get things right!

 

 

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You can only get back German VAT via your German monthly VAT announcement, so you would have to go either the "Bundeszentralamt für Steuern"-way to get back the UK VAT:

 

or give the UK seller your German VAT ID number, it would then be an innergemeinschaftlicher Erwerb, and you would therefore not pay any UK VAT on it in the first place:

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Thanks! re the 2nd suggestion, unfortunately apple say they won't take off the vat unless I'm set up as a business customer. I can put my VAT number on the bill though.

But I don't mind making the separate application for this, it's a one off...

 

Seems no one has heard anything about the delivery location issue my tax advisor is warning me about?

 

 

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Do you really want a lesson in EU VAT law? ;)

 

In order to claim back the VAT on your German VAT announcement (= Umsatzsteuer-Voranmeldung) it has to be German VAT.

 

Which country's VAT is charged on this purchase depends on the "location" this transaction takes place (= Ort der Lieferung), which is defined by the sections of the law mentioned in §3 (5a) UStG or in §3d UStG (and in some other places that are not pertinent to your case - though should you want to buy a car that's not older than 6 months from another EU country, check back here first :D).

 

There are only two possibilities for this "location" to be Germany, and not the UK:

  • you do not tell Apple UK your VAT-ID and therefore pretend to be a private customer. In that case, if Apple UK sells and then sends wares that are worth more than 100,000€ a year to Germany (unlikely, since Germans buy from Apple DE), Apple UK would have to charge German VAT on all its sales that are sent to Germany.
    Amazon.co.uk on the other hand does sell that much to Germany, so if you order from them with delivery to Germany, you will see they automatically take the UK VAT off and add German VAT instead during the checkout process. Amazon.co.uk then has to forward that German VAT they just charged you to the Finanzamt (HRMC loses out there). Which means you can then use that Amazon.co.uk invoice in your German VAT announcement (= Umsatzsteuer-Voranmeldung) just like any "normal" German invoice, in order to get back the VAT you paid, since in fact that VAT was German, and the institution you're getting it back from, the Finanzamt, did in the meantime receive it from Amazon.co.uk, so they're not making a loss by giving it back to you.
    This is laid down in the Versandhausparagraph §3c UStG (which is one of the sections of the law mentioned in §3 (5a) UStG).
     
  • this is what your Steuerberater meant: you tell Apple UK your German VAT-ID, they then have to treat you as a business customer, and not charge UK VAT as long as the item is sent from the UK to Germany. For you this is then an innergemeinschaftlicher Erwerb as defined in §1a UStG,  with the "location" being Germany since that's the place the item gets delivered, as laid down in §3d UStG.
    You then both "pay" and "get back" the German VAT that's due on this purchase in your next German VAT announcement (= Umsatzsteuer-Voranmeldung), so in the end, you're not burdened by VAT, just like for all the other stuff you buy in Germany for your business. 
    So, you see, if delivery takes place in the UK like you propose, i.e. you travel to the UK and physically take possession of that laptop in the UK, you don't fulfill that intra-community delivery condition (= item gets sent by seller from one EU Member State to business customer in another EU Member State) from §1a UStG, it is therefore not an innergemeinschaftlicher Erwerb, and Apple UK has no choice but to charge you UK VAT on this purchase, like they charge all their other walk-in customers in their UK shops.

 

Is it clearer to you now?

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:) Thank you again! It is helpful to understand, since I often buy things from the UK for various reasons.

Great to know re amazon.co.uk - I didn't actually realise that I could put that on my Voranmeldung here.

 

Sorry to ask again and take more of your time, but I still feel unclear about my actual question (although much clearer about the details of how it all works, thank you) :

- so I'm planning to buy the laptop in the UK, put my VAT number on the bill and use my German billing address (since this all needs to be on the invoice) BUT pick it up/have it deliered in the UK (all of this is the only option available to me for buying from apple uk).

-  I am aware that I will pay UK VAT at the payment point

- I want to then make the refund claim using the process described here: http://www.bzst.de/EN/Steuern_International/Vorsteuerverguetung/Vorsteuerverguetung_node.html;jsessionid=53D98CB17490AA60FB35BB7B3A58BD6A.live6812

 

I haven't read anything telling me this isn't possible - since I'm registered and do my business here in Germany and not the UK. But, my tax advisor says it's not possible because  (as I understand his latest reply) if I pick up in the UK, there is no evidence the item comes to Germany.  I know I should really trust his advice but I haven't read anything about this elsewhere, and everyone keeps saying I can claim it back. Hence asking here!

 

I just want to know if I will be able to claim back the VAT (by process described above) - since it does effect my budget and which I buy.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, ramblingr said:

 

I just want to know if I will be able to claim back the VAT (by process described above)

 

Ye-hes, that's what the process is for. 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, ramblingr said:

But, my tax advisor says it's not possible because  (as I understand his latest reply) if I pick up in the UK, there is no evidence the item comes to Germany. 

 

I think something got lost in translation and your Steuerberater is still stuck on explaining to you why that UK laptop can't appear on your German VAT announcement (= Umsatzsteuer-Voranmeldung), since it isn't an innergemeinschaftlicher Erwerb, since it wasn't sent to Germany.

 

*********************************

 

I suggest you simply send him this to make him aware of the Normenkette that defines the Bundeszentralamt-way (which has nothing to do with your Umsatzsteuer-Voranmeldung!) of getting back the VAT on items/services you buy in another Member State for your business, from that other Member State (via the Bundeszentralamt):

 

Should he then still insist that you need proof that laptop reached Germany, ask him where in Randziffer 37 or 38 of the BMF-Schreiben vom 03.12.2009 - IV B 9 "Umsatzsteuer Vergütungsverfahren ab 1. Januar 2010" it asks for such proof (it doesn't).

 

*********************************

 

There won't be any problem getting back the UK VAT through the Bundeszentralamt, it has been tried and tested by many people:

For example, @ruapehu confirmed she managed to get her UK VAT back this way:

 

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Yes you're probably right about the misunderstanding - his answer was quite rushed too. 

 

okay, going to go for it and get that new computer :) thank you so much for the explanations @PandaMunich!

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Did you have any luck @ramblingr? I would also like to by a Mac in the UK as there's a huge difference in price but I still wasn't any the wiser after reading the above unfortunately.

 

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In the end I bought one from cyberport here - they have v good prices, plus certainty re claiming book the VAT so it worked out as a good deal in the end.

 

A couple of things I found out in the meantime:

- HMRC say yes you should definitely be able to get the VAT back but not necessarily through them. If the seller won't remove at source, then they should refund it once you show them 'proof' of having removed the item to another EU country. If the seller still refuses - (as apple will) keep a copy/proof of their refusal, as that's what you'd need to show HMRC to have a chance of getting the money back through them. (All seemed quite long winded and uncertain to me so I decided to avoid)

- Also watch out that a lot of sellers on amazon have their v good prices because they're using some scheme which means they don't add VAT to the price (just the margin of the profit or something like that) so in those cases there wouldn't be any VAT to claim back.

 

Good luck :)

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12 hours ago, ramblingr said:

In the end I bought one from cyberport here - they have v good prices, plus certainty re claiming book the VAT so it worked out as a good deal in the end.

 

A couple of things I found out in the meantime:

- HMRC say yes you should definitely be able to get the VAT back but not necessarily through them. If the seller won't remove at source, then they should refund it once you show them 'proof' of having removed the item to another EU country. If the seller still refuses - (as apple will) keep a copy/proof of their refusal, as that's what you'd need to show HMRC to have a chance of getting the money back through them. (All seemed quite long winded and uncertain to me so I decided to avoid)

- Also watch out that a lot of sellers on amazon have their v good prices because they're using some scheme which means they don't add VAT to the price (just the margin of the profit or something like that) so in those cases there wouldn't be any VAT to claim back.

 

Good luck :)

Thanks very much for the info. That cyberport website does have better prices than Apple, but unfortunately I don't see the chance to buy with a British keyboard - grrr!

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