Knowledge sharing

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Big 4 surveys: VAT risks too high, VAT controls too low

Managing risk is about making decisions at all levels of an organization, to limit the effect and likelihood of threats happening and to increase the effect and likelihood of opportunities.
The importance of indirect tax has increased over the last couple of years. While the rates for direct tax, corporate income tax, are decreasing, the rates for indirect tax keep rising. At multinational companies we’re easily talking about amounts of over 5 billion euros of indirect tax flowing through the books.

Yet according to big4 surveys, the related control mechanisms are still inadequate. Not only can an error in the accounts lead to major additional tax assessments and substantial penalties, with amounts like these, it can be devastating for the reputation of a listed company.’

The global Big4 bench mark studies among multinationals (clients and relations), inter alia, show that most companies have not yet developed an effective VAT/GST approach.

Tax authorities, due to technological innovations, have become increasingly better in executing their tax audit. The probability that the Tax Authorities will issue additional assessments and penalties in the near future because errors in indirect tax are detected, increases by the day.’

These Big4 surveys are useful as they give insight into what others are facing or have faced and how you could improve yourself.

A cash in and a cash out?

VAT is a tax on consumption. It is collected in stages by the businesses (or intermediaries) and is fully borne by the final purchaser. As a consequence, VAT is a transactional tax with the potential to impact all transactions with suppliers and customers.

Measuring risks is often based on the balance between output VAT and input VAT and not on the total amount of VAT/GST throughput (also called VAT ‘under management’).

The findings listed in below YouTube are not surprising as often the question is asked what risk management even has to do with VAT/GST. The reasoning behind this question is that VAT/GST is typically cost neutral for most businesses: “a cash in and cash out” scenario. However, every indirect tax function knows that deductible input VAT and liable output VAT have to be managed separately to avoid substantial VAT assessments, penalties and interest payments.

It is a risky business to monitor only the balance between output VAT and input VAT. Neutrality can only be achieved – better is the word ‘earned’ – if certain formal and material requirements are met.

CFOs apparently still focus more on direct tax than indirect tax. This is interesting as from a tax revenue perspective the current trend is a shift from direct tax to indirect tax by decreasing direct tax rates and increasing VAT/GST rates.

From Global Indirect Tax Management: A roadmap to indirect tax function effectiveness

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