Should an online merchant use the Value Added Tax calculation service on Amazon or are the weaknesses of this system too serious?

We will answer this question in the following sections. But there is one thing you must always be aware of.

From the point of view of the tax office, only you as an entrepreneur are responsible. Therefore, you should have a basic understanding of the system behind the automation of your business processes - especially if they are processes for finding taxes.

One can anticipate the answer to the initial question a little.

The pressure to use the Value Added Tax calculation service on Amazon is increasing due to Amazon . The weaknesses of this system are small to considerable, depending on the setup. We at Taxdoo offer solutions for this via our platform.

The Value Added Tax calculation service: a brief history

When Amazon 2017 Amazon Business was launched as a B2B marketplace, it was clear that this marketplace would only be a success if the buyers - which now includes the entire DAX group - received legally compliant invoices from the sellers.

Due to the heterogeneity in online trade, which is very strongly dominated by companies from the SME segment, it soon became clear that the calculation of Value Added Tax and the invoicing could not be left to the seller.

Any larger company with appropriate tax security mechanisms would have immediately prohibited its own procurement department from purchasing goods via Amazon Business as soon as the first invoice written via Word appeared there.

How should Amazon ensure that this never happens? The answer is simple: You take these processes completely out of the hands of the salespeople.

The Value Added Tax calculation service (in the following VCS for VAT Calculation Service) calculates Value Added Tax for each transaction and creates an invoice - for each Amazon business marketplace in the EU. You can read more about how it works in our first article from 2017 - or in the renowned taxtech.blog.

The VCS is a development by Vertex for Amazon. As we have explained in our previous publications, this solution has had some weaknesses for years.

Meanwhile, the (soft) pressure on dealers to use the VCS through Amazon is increasing. The so-called VCS lite, where the Value Added Tax calculation is still done by Amazon , but the invoicing is done by the retailer, should create more acceptance.

The weaknesses are identical for both systems - VCS and VCS lite - and are summarized below.

Invalid VAT IDs on Amazon Business

The VCS unfolds its full functionality - and then you can hardly get past it - in the context of B2B transactions. Cross-border deliveries to entrepreneurs in the EU are tax-free as so-called intra-community deliveries.

Since 1 January 2020 at the latest, this only applies if the customer can present a valid VAT ID abroad at the time of delivery .

If this is not the case, you must submit this transaction to Value Added Tax .

If the customer does not have a valid VAT ID in another EU country, deliveries are taxable.

Taxdoo therefore checks a very high six-digit number of VAT IDs every month. According to our results, between five and eight percent of the VAT IDs deposited on Amazon are invalid.

Does the VCS check the buyer's VAT ID immediately before the sale?

According to the Amazon-AGB, Amazon or the VCS cannot guarantee this.

As a result, Amazon or the VCS evaluates intra-Community deliveries as tax-free even if the VAT ID of the purchaser is invalid.

Risk: As part of an audit by the tax authorities, the auditor will retroactively charge Value Added Tax at the latest since 1 January 2020 if the buyer's VAT ID was invalid at the time of delivery. In the case of retrospective taxation, the interest that the tax authorities have to levy will be added. In Germany, this is - after a short period - 0.5 percent per month on Value Added Tax. In other EU countries, this is often several times higher.

Incorrect result due to incorrect storage location

If you ship your products yourself, the VCS can only work with one storage location. If you have more than one own warehouse from which you ship the goods to the customers, the VCS may come to wrong results in B2C transactions if the following constellation is present.

  • The delivery is cross-border AND
  • your second, third, fourth. camp is in a different EU country than the first camp AND
  • the delivery threshold of the country of destination has not been exceeded
Excerpt from the current FAQ on the VCS
Risk: For the above constellation, the VCS calculates the wrong VAT rate for the wrong country. In this case you owe Value Added Tax twice: the tax which is on the VCS invoice and the tax which has actually been incurred in the country of storage - plus interest if applicable.

Determination of the incorrect tax rate

If you do not make any settings, the VCS will always apply the standard tax rate of the respective EU state.

If you sell products that are taxed at a reduced rate, you must classify these products using the product tax codes provided by Amazon . These are not official classifications, so a classification is not legally binding.

Excerpt from the current FAQ on the VCS

Especially in the area of food and food supplements you should have a so-called tariff classification of your products carried out by a customs expert. Only with the help of the customs tariff number determined in this context can the VAT rate for your products and for each EU country be safely determined.

Risk: A considerable risk exists if the VCS calculates a tax rate that is too low. Example: In France, coffee is taxed at 5.5 percent. Due to your incorrect classification, the VCS applies the third reduced tax rate in France of 2.1 percent. In this case, you would reduce or evade 3.4 percentage points Value Added Tax per delivery.

We at Taxdoo work exclusively with the customs tariff number and can make you a proposal for each product and EU country using an automated logic.

Monitoring of delivery thresholds not possible

The VCS is not able to monitor delivery thresholds and is also quite cumbersome to handle. However, this will be necessary until at least 30.06.2021 - see here.

If the delivery threshold is exceeded or opted for, you have to register this yourself in the VCS. This is done by registering for tax purposes in the respective country of destination and entering the foreign VAT ID in the VCS.

Risk: If you do not have processes in place to monitor your delivery thresholds, the VCS will inevitably produce incorrect results. In the worst case, you will owe Value Added Tax twice: Value Added Tax on the invoice and Value Added Tax, which has actually been incurred - plus interest if the tax authorities discover it later.

Checklist: Which setup?

In summary, the following can be said.

  • You are taxable only in Germany, do not sell cross-border and your products are subject to the standard tax rate: you can use the VCS without any problems.
  • You are only liable to tax in Germany and your products are subject to the reduced tax rate: You should make sure in advance that a customs expert has determined the customs tariff number of your products. Then you can use the VCS without any problems.
  • You sell B2C across borders within the EU and are registered for tax purposes in all countries where you have exceeded the delivery threshold and can monitor this continuously: You can use the VCS without any problems.
  • You also sell cross-border B2B within the EU: In this case you must be aware that some of the VCS evaluations are wrong and that you will have to pay tax arrears and interest if in doubt.
  • You are liable to pay taxes in other EU countries - e.g. because of delivery thresholds, shipping warehouses, ... - but do not yet have tax registrations in all/some states: In this case the VCS leads to wrong results, which in the worst case leads to double taxation.
  • You are liable to pay taxes in other EU countries - due to the use of dispatch warehouses - and also have tax registrations in the corresponding countries, in which you have not exceeded the delivery threshold: In this case, the VCS leads to false results, which also lead to double taxation in the worst case.

Conclusion: Look closely!

Without the automation of the essential business processes, online trade in its current form would hardly be conceivable.

As a trader or tax advisor, you have to take a very close look at the processes involved in finding taxes, such as Amazon's Value Added Tax calculation service.

The VCS is not a masterpiece of automated cross-border Value Added Tax compliance and in the cases shown can lead to subsequent claims by the tax authorities that threaten the existence of the company.

But sooner or later you will hardly pass the VCS.

We at Taxdoo therefore offer security mechanisms via our platform to absorb these risks.

Taxdoo is the platform for automated and secure Value Added Taxprocesses

... and forms for the leading online retailers in Europe besides the handling of the current EU-wide Value Added Tax-Compliance, Intrastat and financial accounting also offers numerous other compliance services via a unique platform.

If you want to know more about how you Value Added Taxcan efficiently and securely map compliance, financial accounting and much more via a platform, then book your individual and free initial consultation with the compliance experts from Taxdoo!

You are also welcome to register for our regular demo webinar in which we will introduce Taxdoo and our compliance services and answer your questions personally.