Understanding the reverse charge of import VAT

Understanding the reverse charge of import VAT

Navigating through changing import VAT regulations has become an imperative for those involved in international trade. Frequent and sometimes complex regulatory adjustments require constant vigilance and agile adaptation to avoid financial pitfalls and exploit tax optimization opportunities. In this context, staying informed and ready to adjust practices is essential to secure trade flows and support economic growth in a globalized market.

What is the reverse charge of import VAT?

The import VAT reverse charge is a tax mechanism designed to simplify the process of paying value-added tax on imported goods. The system allows authorized businesses to defer payment of import VAT, transforming the way the tax is collected and managed.

Since January 1, 2022, the reverse charge of VAT on imports has been mandatory and automatic for all businesses and certain public bodies liable for VAT in France.

Definition and mechanism

The reverse charge of import VAT enables companies to record the VAT due on their periodic VAT returns, instead of paying the tax at the time of import. In practical terms, this means that when a company imports goods, it does not have to pay VAT to customs immediately. Instead, the tax due is carried forward and declared on the company's VAT return for the period concerned. At the same time, the company can usually deduct the same VAT as a tax credit on the same return, subject to the ordinary VAT deduction rules, thus neutralizing the financial impact of the VAT liability.

Benefits for companies

The reverse charge of VAT on imports offers several significant advantages for businesses:

  • Improved cash flow: The main benefit is improved cash management. Companies do not have to advance VAT at the time of import, which can represent substantial savings and improve cash flow.
  • Administrative simplification: This mechanism reduces administrative formalities and interactions with customs for VAT payment, simplifying the import process.
  • Tax neutrality: the reverse charge makes VAT-registered companies more immediately tax neutral, since they carry forward the VAT due and simultaneously deduct this amount on the same VAT return.
  • Increased competitiveness: Reducing import costs can make companies more competitive on international markets.

The reverse charge of import VAT therefore represents an important evolution in VAT management for companies engaged in international trade, offering them advantages in terms of cash flow, process simplification and competitiveness.

Legislation and eligibility

The regulatory environment for import VAT has undergone significant adjustments, directly influencing the import practices of international companies. Understanding and adapting to these changes is crucial to maintaining compliance and optimizing cross-border business operations.

Legislative changes since 2022

As of January 1, 2022, the reverse charge of VAT on imports has become mandatory and automatic for all businesses and certain public bodies identified for VAT purposes in France. This regulatory change aims to modernize the VAT system for international trade, facilitating better integration of customs processes in the digital economy. By simplifying VAT payment obligations, this measure improves the fluidity of supply chains and strengthens the fight against tax fraud, while ensuring fair competition between European companies and importers.

Who is concerned by VAT collection on imports into France?

The collection of import VAT on the VAT return applies to taxable businesses as well as to non-taxable businesses with an intra-Community VAT number in France.

Companies, whether based in France or abroad, wishing to import goods into France must ensure that they have a valid French intra-Community VAT number. If they don't, they should contact the relevant tax authorities to obtain one, and mention it on their customs declarations.

Entities covered by the simplified tax regime (RSI) or the basic VAT exemption regime, wishing to import goods into France, must also inform their tax department of their intention to import. This will enable them to be placed under the régime réel normal d'imposition or to be assigned a French intra-Community VAT number.

These measures are important to ensure compliance with tax regulations, while enabling efficient cash management and operations.

Reverse charge procedure

Adopting thereverse charge for import VAT involves a series of specific administrative steps, enabling companies to benefit from this advantageous tax regime. Understanding and following these steps correctly is essential to ensure smooth and compliant implementation.

Obtaining an intra-Community VAT number

The first crucial step is to obtain an intra-Community VAT number. This number is essential for companies carrying out commercial transactions within the European Union. It serves as a tax identifier, enabling authorities to track and manage cross-border VAT transactions. To acquire it, companies must contact the tax authorities in their own country, providing the necessary documents proving their commercial activity and legal registration as a company.

Reverse charge procedures

Once a company has obtained an intracommunity VAT number, it must follow the specific steps required for a reverse charge. These generally include:

  • Registering with the customs authorities: Companies must inform customs of their intention to use the reverse charge system for import VAT, providing all the necessary information about their business.
  • Updating accounting systems: It is essential to adjust internal processes to reflect the reverse charge of VAT on periodic returns. This includes the ability to simultaneously report VAT due on imports and the corresponding VAT credit, thus ensuring tax neutrality.
  • Documentation and tracking: Keeping a detailed record of all imports and the corresponding VAT returns is crucial. This facilitates potential audits and ensures ongoing compliance with reverse-charge rules.

Joining this process enables companies to simplify their import VAT management, optimizing cash flow and tax compliance. However, it is advisable to consult a tax expert or customs advisor to navigate these steps effectively and ensure that all requirements are fully met.

Facilities and benefits

The implementation of thereverse charge of VAT on imports opens the way to a series of significant facilitations and advantages for companies engaged in international trade, easing administrative burdens and improving cash flow management.

Pre-filling of VAT returns and other facilities

One of the most important new features is the pre-filling of VAT returns. This system saves companies valuable time and reduces potential errors in the declaration process. Based on information previously supplied to the tax authorities, declarations can be partially or fully completed in advance, simplifying the task for companies. Other facilities include access to one-stop shops for declarations and payments, as well as accelerated procedures for processing import files, reducing waiting times at borders.

Benefits of the reverse charge for corporate cash flow

The impact of the reverse charge on companies' cash flow is particularly significant. By deferring payment of import VAT until the periodic VAT return is submitted, companies benefit from a significant improvement in their cash flow. This deferred payment eliminates the need to advance considerable sums at the time of import, allowing funds to be used more productively elsewhere in the business. What's more, since deductible VAT and VAT due can often be declared simultaneously, the net effect on cash flow can be neutral, promoting more flexible and efficient financial management.

Optimizing your tax management: the rise of the VAT reverse charge

In summary, the adoption of thereverse charge of import VAT represents a significant step forward for international businesses, simplifying customs procedures and offering improved cash flow management. By allowing VAT payments to be deferred until the periodic declaration, this mechanism facilitates a more strategic allocation of financial resources and reduces administrative burdens.

The steps involved in integrating this system include obtaining an intra-Community VAT number, registering with customs authorities for the reverse charge, and adjusting accounting systems to reflect this method of declaration. These steps, while requiring an initial investment of time and resources, open the door to a series of significant benefits.

We strongly encourage companies to explore the option of reverse charge of import VAT. Beyond the immediate benefits in terms of cash flow and administrative relief, this approach strengthens tax compliance and can contribute to a more positive relationship with tax and customs authorities. By keeping abreast of legislative developments and actively engaging with this regime, companies can not only navigate the complex tax landscape more effectively, but also seize opportunities to optimize their cross-border business operations.


  1. What is the VAT reverse charge?
    VAT reverse charge is a tax mechanism that allows companies to enter the VAT due on their imports directly in their periodic VAT return, rather than paying it at the time of import. This means that the tax is not physically paid at the border but is processed in the accounts, often allowing immediate neutralization through simultaneous deduction as deductible VAT.
  2. How to reverse charge import VAT?
    reverse charge import VAT, a company must first ensure that it meets the eligibility criteria set by its country's tax authorities. It must then register for the reverse charge with these authorities, a process which may vary according to local legislation. Once registered, the company reports the VAT due on its imports on its regular VAT return, thus offsetting the tax due against the deductible VAT on the same transactions.
  3. How to reclaim customs VAT?
    reclaim customs VAT, companies must generally submit a refund claim to the tax authorities, providing the necessary supporting documents such as import declarations and customs invoices. Under the reverse charge system, however, this step is simplified, since the VAT is not paid in advance but offset as part of the company's periodic VAT return.
  4. What's the difference between intra-Community VAT and reverse charge?
    ‍Intra-Community VAT refers to the tax applied to goods and services exchanged between European Union member states. It is generally reverse-chargeable by the buyer in the country of receipt. VATreverse charge, on the other hand, is a broader principle that can apply to VAT on imports (from non-EU countries) and, in certain cases, to intra-Community VAT. The main difference lies in application: while intra-Community VAT concerns transactions between EU members, the reverse charge can concern both extra-Community imports and intra-Community acquisitions.

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