Book Review: 2010 Quick Reference to European VAT Compliance

Quick Reference to European VAT Compliance. Christ Platteeuw and Pedro Pestana da Silva, Editors. Kluwer Law International, 2010. ($281 | 808 pages | Paperback, with CD-ROM: 978-90-411-2851-5).

Kluwer Law International’s 2010 Quick Reference to European VAT Compliance is a detailed guide on reporting requirements and procedures for corporations and other organizations with tax obligations in Europe. The editors are a partner (Platteeuw) and an attorney (Pestana da Silva) from Deloitte, and it is written by the firm’s European Indirect Tax Compliance Centre. The imprimatur from authorship by one of the Big Four looms large, as one can imagine that department’s lawyers and accountants consulting such a reference in their daily work. Many practitioners in the subject area could find great use for it, but those professionals might prefer it on a bookshelf in their own office instead of their library.

This reference outlines the Value Added Tax (“VAT”) systems of all twenty-seven European Union member nations, as well as Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. Although the entire volume is quite long, each country’s individual profile is kept to a reasonable length (about twenty pages). If a researcher were only concerned with (for instance) Luxembourg at the moment, she could cover all the relevant material in a very short amount of time.

Each of these chapters is broken down in a consistent way. The first section for each country is concerned with whether a VAT registration is required for any particular organization. The second deals with the designation of a local Fiscal Representative by foreign companies. The third section explains the timing and other specific requirements while registering or deregistering. The fourth and final section for each nation covers what actually has to be reported in three key systems. The periodical VAT return is usually filed on a monthly or quarterly basis (varying by country), with a summary filing once a year. The European Sales Listing, focusing on intra-community trading, is filed quarterly. The Intrastat filings (which are used for statistical purposes more than fiscal ones) are usually monthly.

The balance of the reference focuses on general information about the VAT in Europe. After an introduction featuring a history of the VAT system, basics are outlined. The reader gets an explanation of how imported goods are treated differently from goods purchased domestically, and how goods supplied to another member of the community are treated differently from goods supplied outside the community. There is a lot of focus on the Registration and Reporting systems, with less information on recordkeeping and auditing. All of this would probably be an advisable read for someone just getting into work on the topic, but it is organized in such a simple and concise manner that it makes a good reference tool as well.

The volume also comes with a CD-ROM of forms and appendices. The choice of technology is a bit antiquated for 2010, but the contents are valuable. The forms number in the hundreds, because many of the countries need their own versions of a few basic reporting forms. The eighteen appendices contain a number of helpful charts that allow quick comparisons among several nations of VAT compliance requirements.

One of the stated purposes of the book was to serve as a guide for non-Europeans who are suddenly forced to think about VAT compliance in Europe. In this respect, it will likely be a very successful tool. It nevertheless remains unnecessary for most libraries. It is designed for those few collections devoted to practitioners in finance or tax who could suddenly find themselves representing an organization trading goods in Europe.

Reviewed by Jacob Sayward, Serials Librarian at Fordham Law’s Leo T. Kissam Memorial Library

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June 2010

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