Customs law does not define “importer of record”. The Belgian customs authorities’ administrative guidelines refer to the concept of “importer of record” for VAT purposes. Following this perspective, importers should carefully assess this concept as during summer 2021 Belgium updated its VAT rules on importer or record in connection with the new VAT rules for e-commerce.
When importing goods with a value below or equal to EUR 150 in Belgium without any IOSS application, the exemption for import VAT will not apply. Consequently, the importer of record will be liable to account for the import VAT due. To determine who will be deemed to act as the importer of record in this scenario, a distinction must be made based on whether the simplified import procedure is applied, in which the import VAT is paid by a courier or postal service:
On the other hand, where consignments with a value over EUR 150 are imported in one Member State and then are shipped to a final consumer in another Member State, VAT is in principle payable by the consumer both upon the import in the Member State of import and in the Member State of arrival if the final consumer is named as the importer of record on the import document. As a solution to this situation, Belgian VAT law now stipulates that the seller should always act as the importer of record for import VAT in such a scenario. Since the IOSS cannot be applied, the seller will be required to obtain an individual Belgian VAT number. Although the import will not be exempt from VAT, the vendor will be able to recover this VAT through the periodic VAT declaration. In addition, the seller will also be required to apply for a VAT number and account for VAT on the extra-community distance sale in the Member State of the final customer.
We advise e-tailers that import goods into Belgium to carefully analyse these importer of record rules to avoid being confronted with a VAT registration in Belgium following a VAT audit. Existing policies on determining the importer of record for customs purposes should be aligned on this issue.
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