VAT is normally due by the supplier of goods or the service provider [general rule]. Therefore, when a foreign company is performing taxable operations in Belgium for which it is liable for VAT, it must charge Belgian VAT to its client. In order to do so, it must register for VAT purposes either directly or through a fiscal representative.
Combined with the general reverse charge mechanism applicable in Belgium, the option for a foreign company to appoint a fiscal representative can be useful in order to avoid pre-financing of VAT. Indeed, that mechanism renders the client liable for the VAT due when the latter is a Belgian company submitting periodical returns or a foreign company identified for VAT purposes in Belgium with a fiscal representative.
A British company purchases goods in Belgium and then resales them to a German firm which takes care of transporting them outside Belgium. The British company performs a taxable operation [an intra-community delivery] for which it is obliged to register for VAT purpose in Belgium. Appointing or not a fiscal representative on its own authority will depend on the place where its provider is established:
- If its provider is established in Belgium, the latter must issue an invoice charging Belgian VAT Þ there is no point for the British company to register for VAT through a fiscal representative. It can register directly for VAT purposes;
- However, if its provider is not established in Belgium [for example if it is a Dutch provider], the latter will also have to issue an invoice charging Belgian VAT unless the British company has a Belgian VAT identification number and a fiscal representative.In this case, the person liable for the payment of Belgian VAT to the Treasury is the British company itself [generalised reverse charge mechanism] Þ therefore it is useful for the British company to name a fiscal representative in such a situation in order to avoid any VAT pre-financing.