Information on past conferences
This year’s annual EFS indirect tax-related seminar was held on 14 February 2019 and focused on 50 years of the EU Customs Union and VAT system. The speakers and panel members included the chairman Prof. Madeleine Merkx (Erasmus School of Law, EFS, BDO), Dr Geraldo Vidigal (University of Amsterdam), Prof. Walter de Wit (Erasmus School of Law, EFS, EY), Prof. Edoardo Traversa (UCLouvain, VAT Expert Group, Liedekerke), Brigitte Bijl (Ministry of Finance), Sascha Jafari (Summitto), Bart Caluwé (Expedia), Marc Gorter (Unilever), Prof. Charlène Herbain (UCLouvain, PwC) and Dr Cristina Trenta (Örebro University, VAT Expert Group).
You can download the seminar hand-outs and view the photos here.
A report of the conference by Bram Middelburg, Thomas Potma and Lennart van Verseveld will also appear shortly in Weekblad fiscaal recht (in Dutch) and EC Tax Review (in English).
The conference focused on 50 years of the EU Customs Union and VAT system.
The Customs Union is a fundamental pillar of the European Union as a single trading area, and both supports and protects the single market. While the creation of the Customs Union can be seen as one of the EU’s greatest achievements to date, the anniversary celebrations have been somewhat overshadowed by the challenges currently being faced in the form of Brexit, trade wars and sanctions. This was illustrated by the first speaker, Geraldo Vidigal, who discussed how rules-based trade has come under fire. He outlined the general principles of international trade law and explored the scope available under the WTO’s legal framework to impose additional duties. He then discussed the background, justification and state of play of the trade war currently underway, while also presenting an outlook on the future state of international trade. Walter de Wit, the day’s second speaker, examined the impact of Brexit on the Customs Union. As well as discussing the features of the draft withdrawal agreement, he explained that, because of the Irish backstop, the UK parliament had still not voted – as at the time of the conference – to approve the withdrawal agreement. He then went on to outline various potential ‘Brexit scenarios’, including a ‘hard Brexit’, a customs union, a free trade agreement and membership of the European Economic Area, while also examining the likelihood of each individual scenario against the background of what the UK government has referred to as its ‘red lines’ (also referred to as the ‘UK wish list’).
The subject then switched from customs to VAT. The first step towards a harmonised EU VAT system was taken on 1 January 1969, when the member states of what is now the European Union agreed to transpose the principles laid down in the first EU VAT Directive into their national VAT legislation. Fifty years later, the EU VAT system is facing its most extensive reform to date, with the Commission’s Action Plan on VAT aiming to introduce a definitive VAT regime based on the destination principle. Edoardo Traversa, the third speaker, took this opportunity to highlight the most important changes to the EU VAT system over the past 50 years, linking these to other important changes such as globalisation, the shift from a predominantly goods-driven economy to a more service-driven economy, and the evolution and growth of the EU. He then discussed the position regarding proposals for a far-reaching reform of the EU VAT system and presented an outlook on where we are heading from an EU VAT perspective, while also introducing us to a ‘smart VAT policy’. After the break, Brigitte Bijl presented an alternative approach for combating VAT fraud by discussing how Transaction Network Analysis (TNA) is currently being used as an effective, specifically targeted and – to a great extent – preventive measure to counter this form of fraud. She explained how the Dutch Ministry of Finance has set itself an explicit ambition to combat VAT fraud even more quickly and effectively in the near future. Sascha Jafari then outlined what this future could look like by outlining how blockchain could be used to effectively address VAT fraud, while at the same time limiting ‘red tape’ and protecting against privacy infringements and leaks.
The seminar ended with a plenary discussion, with the topics covered by the panel members including the impact that changes in the economic environment may have on the EU VAT system, the increased importance of global trade and customs both for countries and businesses, the interplay between privacy protection laws and proposals to reform the EU VAT system, and alternative ways of distinguishing fraudsters from reliable and legitimate business partners for VAT purposes. Members of the audience also contributed to the discussion, with plenty of opportunity to engage with the panel.
On 22 February 2018 EFS held its annual indirect tax-related seminar, this year focusing on the recent proposals of the European Commission on its Action Plan for a Single VAT Area. Speakers/ Panel Members included the chairman Prof. Walter de Wit (EFS, Erasmus School of Law, EY), Prof. Gert-Jan van Norden (Tilburg University, KPMG Meijburg & Co), Prof. Marie Lamensch (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, KU Leuven and UCLouvain), Allard van Nes (Royal Friesland Campina) and Marcel Neggers (Customs Administration of the Netherlands). Prof. Ben Terra (University of Lund, Sweden, Universidade Catholica Lisbon, Portugal) joined the panel during the plenary discussion.
You can download the seminar hand-outs and view the photos here.
In the fall of 2017 the European Commission proposed a series of fundamental principles and key reforms for a definitive VAT system, being part of the Commission’s Action Plan on a Single VAT area. In the same timeframe, proposals by the European Commission for a drastic change of VAT rules for online sales of goods and services in Europe have been adopted. The EFS seminar on 22 February 2018 was dedicated to this subject.
After the kick-off by Professor Walter de Wit, Professor Gert-Jan van Norden gave an introduction on the principles and objectives of the European Commission’s Action Plan for a Single VAT Area. In particular he explained the concept of the ‘Certified Taxable Person (CTP)’ and its possible implications. In addition, he discussed a couple of other quick fixes mentioned in the proposals – the call-of stock simplification, the simplification for chain transactions and the harmonized rules for proof of transport – which are likely to enter in force in 2019 (whether partly or not).
The CTP would seem to have quite some aspects in common with the concept of the ‘Authorized Economic Operator (AEO)’ in EU Customs Law. In his introduction, guest speaker Marcel Neggers made a comparison between these two concepts. Prior to this comparison, he explained the conditions and advantages of AEO in detail. Neggers indicated that there are similarities in the conditions for, respectively, AEO and CTP, but whether the interpretation of these conditions will be explained equally in practice or not, is not clear (yet).
Professor Marie Lamensch discussed the adopted proposals regarding the modernisation of VAT rules for cross-border e-commerce. Lamensch briefly explained the measures contained in the VAT Digital Single Market Package, and commented, among other things, on the simplifications and extension of the (Mini) One Stop Shop ((M)OSS). In this regard, Lamensch indicated that the enforcement and monitoring of the application of the (M)OSS and the adjusted thresholds for intra-EU B2C supplies should be considered as unfixed flaws. Moreover, she provided a critical reflection on the introduction of a VAT liability for electronic interfaces (e.g. platforms) that facilitate supplies of low value goods imported from outside the EU or for sales made within the EU by non-EU based vendors.
The last guest speaker, Allard van Nes, assessed the VAT Action Plan from a business perspective. The proposals will have far-reaching consequences, particularly for business involved in international or intra-community trade as well as in the e-commerce sector, as they affect several fundamental principles and cornerstones of the current VAT system. In Van Nes’ view, the conditions that underlie the application of the proposed quick fixes (g.e. CTP) and measures for the definitive VAT system should be more specified. In addition, he advocated for harmonising or aligning VAT regimes of the EU Member States, in order to reduce the compliance burden of businesses.
The seminar ended with a plenary discussion, which was initiated by Professor Ben Terra. Terra shared his view on the proposals of the European Commission. During this discussion participants in the audience also made their views known, with plenty of opportunity to engage with the panel.
On 11 October 2017 EFS held its annual direct tax-related conference, this year focusing on Taxation in a digitising world and its solutions for corporate income tax and value added tax. Speakers included the chairman Maarten de Wilde (EFS/ESL/ Loyens & Loeff), Professor Rita de la Feria (University of Leeds), Nicolas Colin (Université Paris-Dauphine) and Rogier Vanhorick (Deloitte). Prof. Peter Kavelaars (Erasmus School of Economics, University of Curaçao, Deloitte) was conference Director. You can download the conference hand-outs and view the photos here.
A report of the conference, written by Martijn Schippers LLM and Constantijn Verhaeren
has been published in the Dutch Weekblad voor fiscaal recht, WFR 2017/249 – December
2017 and has also been published in EC Tax Review (27) 2018, issue 1 – January 2018
You can also find these articles for free on this site.
The EFS autumn conference on 11 October 2017 was dedicated to taxation in a digitising world and the challenges and solutions for corporate income tax and VAT.
Rita de la Feria was the first international speaker to present her views on these topics. In her eyes, the current political approach of ring-fencing the digital features of the economy is too narrow. There is no digital economy; instead, the entire economy is becoming digitised. She challenged the audience to look at the bigger picture and to find tax solutions applying to the economy as a whole. She did not see the anti-avoidance measures resulting from the BEPS project as representing a step forward as these address the symptoms, but not the causes of the current problems. In her view, therefore, more wide-ranging reform is needed. Taking account both of the need for legitimacy and the ability to levy taxes, De la Feria presented the CCCTB and a destination-based corporate income tax as possible solutions.
The second speaker, Nicolas Colin, provided insight into the five technological revolutions over the past two centuries, with a recurring pattern being a turning point after the bursting of the bubble. The bubble of the fifth technological revolution – the digital revolution – has burst and we are now at the point where governments urgently need to start acting to deal with and anticipate the digitally-driven challenges to the tax legislation currently in place. The fundamental changes we are now seeing include a company’s value no longer being created within the company, but instead being dependent on external factors such as numbers of network participants and users. Meanwhile passive customers at the end of the supply chain are becoming active and shifting to the middle of the chain. As well, therefore, as dealing with technical, procedural and political obstacles, tax reform also needs to overcome these challenges.
The final speaker, Rogier van Horick, showed the audience how we are still tending to think linear, but need to start thinking globally and to accept the concept of exponential growth leading to disruption. This feature of the digitised world may initially have gained ground slowly, but is now overrunning every aspect of the economy. Tax legislation is consequently being challenged, while definitions and tax reference points in current VAT legislation, for example, have become outdated. Our tax framework needs to be overhauled and we have to start devising new solutions. In the case of VAT, however, the destination principle is not the solution as it will result in enforcement problems. Should we therefore introduce cash flow taxes or tax values, or could a solution be found in revenue sharing?
On 2 February 2017 EFS held its annual indirect tax-related conference, this year focusing on Brexit and its consequences for trade, VAT and customs. Speakers included the chairman Professor René van der Paardt (EFS/ESE/AKD), Professor Fabian Amtenbrink (ESL/College of Europe/EURO-CEFG), Professor Thierry Charon (HUB/Loyens & Loeff/VAT Club), Professor Walter de Wit (EFS/ESL/EY), Emeritus Professor Han Kogels (ESL), Marlon van Amersfoort (Shell), Werner Engelen (LEGO), Godfried Smit (EVO – Fenedex) and Huub Stringer (ABN AMRO).
A report of the conference, written by Martijn Schippers LLM, has been published in the Dutch Weekblad voor fiscaal recht/WFR 2017/72 March 2017 and has also been published in EC Tax Review 26#2 – April 2017
You can also find these articles for free on this site.
After an introduction by the chairman, Professor René van der Paardt (EFS/ESE/AKD), the three main speakers addressed over 200 participants from more than 10 EU countries and working for consultants, government organisations, law firms, universities and the business world.
The first speaker, Professor Fabian Amtenbrink (ESL/College of Europe/EURO-CEFG), discussed the legal implications of Brexit, using facts and figures to show why the referendum turned out as it did and ‘leave voters’ were able to win a majority. The various legal opportunities (or lack of them) available under Article 50 TFEU were then explored, with Professor Amtenbrink explaining which agreements on future relations could and possibly would need to be entered into between the UK and the EU during the exit process and how these could be negotiated. Lastly he discussed the possible scenarios for future relationships between the UK and the EU, how likely each of these scenarios was and the implications of each of them individually.
Professor Thierry Charon (HUB/Loyens & Loeff/VAT Club) then went on to explain the consequences of the various scenarios from a VAT perspective, focusing specifically on the practical implications of the UK’s exit from the EU and explaining how Brexit could also result in some new opportunities in the field of VAT. These included the possibility for the UK to amend its VAT legislation to create opportunities for UK businesses by, for example, increasing the pro rata in certain situations.
The next speaker was Professor Walter de Wit (EFS/ESL/EY), who discussed Brexit from a customs perspective and explained how the customs law implications differed in each scenario. He explored the implications of the UK reverting to WTO rules, of opting to remain part of the Customs Union and of signing a free trade agreement with the EU. In doing so he referred specifically to the consequences for the origin rules, the administrative implications of Brexit and also the extent to which the UK can set its own customs tariffs in the various scenarios.
It was then time for Emeritus Professor Han Kogels (ESL) to integrate these talks in his role as chairman of the panel discussion. His introduction was followed by a discussion between panel members Godfried Smit (EVO), Werner Engelen (Lego), Marlon van Amersfoort (Shell) and Huub Stringer (ABN AMRO), who exchanged thoughts on Brexit from the perspective of a multinational. During this discussion participants in the audience also made their views known, with plenty of opportunity to engage with the panel and the main speakers. As well as technical discussions of tax issues, other Brexit-related implications for businesses were explored. One of the questions raised concerned why ‘leave voters’ were able to win a majority in the referendum. Wasn’t the vote an extremely irrational decision by angry citizens who felt their voices were not being heard? And would the referendum have turned out differently if it had been left up to businesses to decide? These and other questions at the conference provoked lively, in-depth discussions.
On 6 october 2016 EFS organized her annual direct tax related conference. The topic of this years’ conference was: ‘Tax abuse: Aligning EU concepts with Netherlands taxation’. With Conference Chairman Professor Peter Kavelaars (Erasmus School of Economics; University of Curacao; partner at Deloitte), Professor Luc de Broe (KU Leuven; partner at Laga), Professor Ad van Doesum (Maastricht University; tax adviser at PwC) and Professor Reinout Kok (Erasmus School of Law; partner at EY). Please click here to look through the hand-outs of this conference. Please click here to look through the photos of this conference.
On 3 February 2016 EFS organized her annual indirect tax related conference. The topic of this years’ conference was: “BEPS and transfer pricing, but what about VAT and Customs?” With Prof. dr. René van der Paardt (conference chairman), Ronald van den Brekel MSc, Prof. dr. Herman van Kesteren and Prof. dr. Walter de Wit. Please click here to look through the hand-outs of this conference. Please click here to look through the photos of this conference.
A report of the conference, written by Martijn Schippers LLM, EFS/EUR, has been published in the Dutch Weekblad voor fiscaal recht (Wfr 2016/63) – March 2016.
The report has also appeared in English in EC Tax Review (25#3) – June 2016.
You can also find these articles for free on this site.