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Taxation and Customs Union

Value Added Tax (VAT) Directive

The legal framework regulating Value Added Tax (VAT) in the EU

The legal framework regulating VAT

The Value Added Tax (VAT) Directive serves as a cornerstone for harmonising national VAT laws across the EU. It underpins the single market and promotes economic integration while accommodating the diversity of national tax systems. 

As a Directive, it is binding upon each EU Member State in terms of result but leaves the choice of form and methods to the national authorities who transpose it into national legislation. 

Scope of the VAT Directive 

The VAT Directive: 

  • establishes the framework within which VAT is applied to transactions in various economic activities, encompassing the supply of goods and services, intra-Community acquisitions, imports, and other relevant transactions 
  • lays out rules governing VAT rates, including standard, reduced, super-reduced and zero rates, while allowing some degree of autonomy for Member States 
  • delineates rules for determining the place of supply particularly in cross-border scenarios, to ensure consistency and clarity in tax application, thus preventing instances of double or non-taxation 
  • accommodates special VAT schemes for specific categories of taxpayers such as small businesses, and exemptions for certain types of supplies 
  • imposes requirements for invoicing and record-keeping by taxable entities, facilitating compliance and streamlining tax administration 
  • outlines rules on VAT deductions procedures for VAT refunds, enabling businesses to claim refunds and recover VAT incurred on legitimate business expenses 

Application of the VAT Directive 

Each Member State is responsible for: 

  • transposing the provisions of the VAT Directive into national legislation 
  • correctly applying them within its territory, in line with EU implementation measures 
  • informing about the interpretation and application of these provisions 

In applying these provisions, Member States are bound by: 

Non-binding guidance on the application of the VAT Directive is available to Member States via: 

In addition, Member States may have been authorised to derogate from common VAT rules to simplify the procedure for charging the tax or to prevent certain types of tax evasion or avoidance. 

More about VAT Derogations 

Legal texts 

The main piece of legislation is the VAT Directive (2006/112/EC). 

Other legislation includes: 

VAT Reports 

The EU periodically commissions independent studies on the Value Added Tax (VAT) system and its implementation. The reports of these studies are published online. 

See all VAT reports 

Related links 

A pilot project has been set up to allow taxable persons to obtain advance rulings on the VAT treatment of complex cross-border transactions.

This page contains legislative VAT proposals tabled by the European Commission over the past years.