It has been clear for some time that Hungary is in breach of EU law by not allowing the refunding of VAT on bad debts. The fact that cases of Hungarian taxpayers have now been brought before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has forced Hungarian lawmakers to move on the issue. While the package of tax amendments submitted last week provides an opportunity to reclaim such VAT, in certain cases – due to the planned administrative restrictions – it will still only be possible to enjoy this right with reference to EU law.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has declared in a recent case that when checking VAT transactions, the tax authority cannot ignore examining the full budgetary impact. Thus it is not acceptable for the authorities to deny the right of VAT deduction to a taxpayer without allowing the other taxpayer to accordingly reclaim the VAT that it paid. Furthermore, the court also found it unacceptable for the tax authority to base a fine only on the amount of the VAT deducted unlawfully without examining the tax shortfall actually caused. The ruling can be considered as another important step towards the creation of a fair VAT system.
The deductibility of the VAT content of incoming invoices has long been a source of consternation both for equity investors and for the holding companies heading up corporate groups. In a relaxation of the general ban on VAT deduction in these cases, the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) has given ‘active’ holding companies a way around the restrictions. Meanwhile, other recent judgments by the Court have further expanded the opportunities for VAT deduction. Nevertheless, the ECJ’s decisions also show that it’s better to err on the side of caution.
The rules on VAT-exempt intra-Community supplies of goods have long been a source of worry for businesses. It is not uncommon for the tax authority to deny tax exemption on such transactions on the grounds that the goods never left the country. Although a recently accepted proposal by the EU clarifies the rules, complying with them entails a great deal of bureaucracy for companies that deliver to EU markets.
In its judgement passed a few weeks ago, the treatment of European Court of Justice (ECJ) was flexible in the interpretation of the VAT “triangular transactions”. While this decision in favour of the taxpayer creates a tax planning opportunity for businesses involved in international trade of goods, it pays off to be cautions on the other side.
Companies are faced with countless situations where, for reasons beyond their control, they are unable to collect the money owed to them, including its VAT part. In such cases the tax authority often refuses to allow the reclaim of the lost VAT even where this would not incur a loss for the budget. Based on recent judgements by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), however, the VAT should be recoverable in many cases of this kind.
Following the recent reinterpretation by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) of the definition of closed-end finance leasing, a new Advocate General (AG) opinion has exploded another “VAT bomb” in relation to current practice. For many years, leasing companies have divided the fees payable under finance lease contracts into a VATable and a non-VATable part, but the latest AG opinion states that the whole lease fee should be liable for VAT in its integrity. This could have serious implications for the Hungarian leasing market too, so it is worth keeping an eye on how the case progresses.
The law is constantly in flux. While many people may find this intimidating, for us it’s precisely what makes it so exciting. We’d like to share this attitude with businesspeople and managers, and with those who just have an interest in business law, in the form of a regularly updated blog that discusses the latest tax law and commercial law issues in an accessible style. Feel free to send your questions and suggestions for topics you’d like us to cover to email@example.com.