When a supplier invokes the VAT exemption for an intra-Community supply of goods, he has amongst other to prove the intra-Community transport to another Member State. Belgian VAT legislation (Royal Decree n°. 52) stipulates that the supplier should keep a set of commercial documents evidencing the intra-Community transport, such as contracts, invoices, purchase orders, payment documents and transport documents.
Not one of the aforementioned documents in itself are deemed to constitute sufficient evidence, but transport documents (e.g. CMRs) are generally considered to be essential to provide that proof. The recently published Administrative Decision n° E.T. 129.460 now introduces the so-called ‘Destination Document’ (Bestemmingsdocument / Document de Destination) which could serve as an alternative and simplified method to prove the intra-Community transport from the supplier to a destination in another EU member State.
Alternative and simplified method to prove the intra-Community transport
This Destination Document certifies that the goods that are supplied from Belgium to another Member State are in the possession of the person acquiring the goods at a place outside Belgium but within the EU, regardless of the delivery terms that were agreed upon between the supplier and the person acquiring the goods. The document, which may be drawn up electronically, could comprise all intra-Community supplies of goods to the same person acquiring the goods over a period of maximum three consecutive months. Note that the Destination Document can also be used in case of intra-Community transfers (e.g. when a company transfers its own goods to a stock in another Member State).
The Destination Document is considered an alternative for the transportation document and can be used to prove the intra-Community transport of goods. Subject to certain conditions a rebuttable presumption applies that the information in the Destination Document is correct.
Furthermore, the Administrative Decision provides the mandatory data which the document should contain. The Destination Document could be drawn up by either the supplier or by the person acquiring the goods, but the supplier invoking the VAT exemption should of course make sure that he is always in the possession of the signed Destination Document.
The Belgian VAT Authorities retain however the right to demand any other document than transport documents to verify that the transaction is genuine and that it corresponds with the information mentioned in the Destination Document.
What does this mean for the business?
The Destination Document can be a useful tool to replace the transport documents in order to invoke the VAT exemption for an intra-Community supply of goods as it does indeed regularly occur that that the VAT exemption for intra-Community supplies is refused because of deficient transport documents (for example CMR documents which are not signed by all parties).
In particular, when the buyer is in charge of the transport, this sometimes leads to complications as the transport documents are not always returned to the supplier after the arrival of the goods.
One of the main advantages is also that the Destination Document may cover all intra-Community supplies to the same buyer performed in maximum three consecutive months.