By Simonetta Giuricich
Well, that was fun.
June 30th marked the close of the 13th Directive VAT deadline of 2020. It was the strangest, most challenging VAT deadline we’ve ever faced in our 20 years of VAT Reclaim service. But as we reflect on the success of the deadline despite the unprecedented challenges we faced, we do so with triumph in our hearts and a boatload of new skills, resourcefulness and resilience up our sleeves.
So let me paint a contextual scene for you, reader.
In order to submit a compliant 13th Directive VAT refund request to European VAT authorities, the directive’s law states that all invoices and supporting documentation must be physical, original documents. Under normal circumstances, this means collecting original invoices from a company, compiling a claim and then couriering the documentation off to the relevant VAT Authority.
However, these were not normal circumstances.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced our entire processing team to find ways to ensure our clients had the best chance of successfully getting a VAT refund despite the fact that:
- We couldn’t get to our clients’ premises to collect original invoices.
- Suppliers couldn’t be contacted to obtain compliant invoices nor post us reissued invoices.
- We couldn’t go to our own offices where all original invoices are stored and where we normally compile finalised claims.
- Clients couldn’t get to their offices where they can arrange the required supporting documentation.
- Tax offices couldn’t send original tax certificates to our clients.
- The skies were closed to courier invoices to our offices and finalised VAT refund claims to all the various VAT authorities around the world.
It truly was an unprecedented deadline. We had to pivot so many areas of our operations in an incredibly short amount of time. But you see, that’s where VAT IT shines. Pivoting and innovative problem solving completely drives us. So it comes as no surprise that we were up for the challenge and had our entire workforce set up to work remotely in 40 different international offices in under 8 days – ready to help our clients maximise their 2019 VAT refunds that could buoy them up through the impending economic turbulence that’s afoot.
Here are some things we learnt in the trenches:
The tax authorities genuinely wanted to help
Tax authorities across the world turned to indirect tax easements and provisions to help both individuals and businesses to cope through the pandemic. Even within the 13th Directive deadline, 7 different EU VAT authorities extended the deadline to September, allowed late submissions or allowed electronic submissions. Although not all authorities were willing to provide an extension, communication channels were always open and we received a lot of guidance and understanding throughout the deadline period.
Cloud-based technology solves everything in a crisis
The thing that really carried us through remote working on complex claims for thousands of clients was our technology. All our platforms – from our proprietary processing software to VAT Cloud – are all cloud-based. We worked with scanned invoices and documentation to prepare claims until we could get to the original documentation and so that we could limit the number of people managing the physical couriering of claims.
Our VAT Reclaim service is fundamental to any business
When you’re faced with a crisis like COVID-19, it made our mission more simple than it had ever been and everyone took to arms to make that mission happen – Help our clients save as much VAT as we could to help them with their bottom lines when things are bad. It’s always been our core offering but when times are tough, helping your clients increase liquidity becomes critical. It’s an incredible feeling to know that we offer a service that can genuinely help businesses even in times of struggle.
What is VAT IT’s “new normal”?
As the global pandemic continues to limit movement in most countries, VAT IT continues to respect country-specific restrictions. However, business for us continues as usual. Major VAT Authorities have granted 13th Directive extensions to September. This means we’ll be looking to process an even bigger September deadline than ever before.
We are fully committed to ensuring every cent of VAT is recovered despite all the challenges already faced, and the challenges still to come.
To all clients and partners, with local and international travel in 2020 being significantly impacted, the time is now to maximise refunds from 2019 travel spend. If you want to save cash now and for the future, you must harvest the opportunities of the past.