VAT: Commission proposes new instrument for speedy response to fraud Published on: 03/08/2012
A proposal for a Quick Reaction Mechanism (QRM), that would enable Member States to respond more swiftly and efficiently to VAT fraud, was adopted by the Commission today. Under the QRM, a Member State faced with a serious case of sudden and massive VAT fraud would be able to implement certain emergency measures, in a way which they are currently not allowed to under VAT legislation. In this context, the proposal provides that Member States would be able to apply, within the space of a month, a "reverse charge mechanism" which makes the recipient rather than the supplier of the goods or services liable for VAT. This would significantly improve their chances of effectively tackling complex fraud schemes, such as carrousel fraud, and of reducing otherwise irreparable financial losses. In order to deal with possible new forms of fraud in the future, it is also foreseen that other anti-fraud measures could be authorised and established under the QRM.
Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for Taxation, Customs and Anti-Fraud, said: "When it comes to VAT fraud, time is money. Fraudsters have become quicker and cleverer in developing schemes to rob the public purse. We must strive to be one step ahead of them. The Quick Reaction Mechanism will ensure that our system is sufficiently equipped to tackle VAT fraud effectively. It will help preserve much needed public revenues and create a fair and level-playing field for honest businesses."
VAT fraud costs the EU and national budgets several billion euro every year. In some serious cases, vast sums are lost within a very short timeframe, due to the speed at which fraud schemes evolve nowadays. For example, between June 2008 and December 2009, an estimated €5 billion was lost as a result of VAT fraud in greenhouse gas emission allowances.
Currently, if a Member State wishes to counteract VAT fraud through measures not provided for under EU VAT legislation, it must formally request a derogation to do so. The Commission then draws up a proposal to this effect and submits it to Council for unanimous adoption before the measures can be implemented. This process can be slow and cumbersome, delaying the Member State in question from taking the necessary action to stop the fraud.
With the Quick Reaction Mechanism, Member States would no longer have to wait for this formal process to be completed before applying specific anti-fraud measures. Instead, a much faster procedure would grant them a temporary derogation within a month. The derogation would be valid for up to one year. This would allow the Member State in question to begin counteracting the fraud nearly immediately, while more permanent measures are being established (and if necessary while the standard derogation procedure is being launched).
The Quick Reaction Mechanism was foreseen in the new VAT Strategy (see IP/11/508), as well as the Communication on fighting tax fraud and evasion (see IP/12/697), as a means of strengthening the fight against tax fraud in the EU and safeguarding public revenues.