On 8 May 2013, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) has released its judgement in the case C-271/12, Petroma Transports SA et al. v. État belge.
The judgement confirms that:
The case involved a Belgian group of companies of which Petroma Transports SA was the main company providing a number of intra-group services including the supply of staff. During inspections, the Belgian Tax Authorities questioned the deductions and found incomplete invoices. Most of these invoices included an overall amount, with no indication ofthe unit price or the number of hours worked by the staff of the service-providing companies. Such lack of detail made it impossible for the tax authorities to determine the exact amount of tax collected and to allow the input VAT deductions. The companies sought to supplement the invoices with further information which was however not accepted by the tax authorities, arguing that the information was submitted after the completion of the tax audit and comprised of contracts not binding on third parties and adjusted invoices that lacked any probative value.
The CJEU considered that at the time when the tax audit was carried out, the EU VAT Directive allowed Member States to lay down the criteria to determine whether a document could be considered to constitute an invoice. Under the current rules, it is sufficient for an invoice to include the minimum details required by the Directive and Member States cannot make the exercise of the right to deduct VAT dependent on compliance obligations which go beyond the provisions of the Directive.
This was also confirmed in the case, C-368/09 of 2010, Pannon Gép Centrum Kft whereby it was concluded that the right to deduct cannot be denied on grounds that the person was in possession of an invoice that contained an incorrect completion date for the supply of services and the numbering of the subsequently corrected invoice and credit note were not sequential, if the material conditions governing deduction are satisfied and an invoice with the correct date of supply is provided to the tax authority before a decision is taken by that authority.
This fact that amendments of incorrect invoices are not prohibited as long as they are made in due time was also confirmed in Petroma Transports SA.
Petroma Transports SA highlights the underlying principle that for a taxable person to claim input VAT, he must be in possession of a proper tax invoice. It is thus pertinent that purchase invoices are checked by taxable persons for their compliance or, at least, for their adequacy ideally upon their receipt. Revisions of any improper invoices must be asked for immediately by the customer bearing in mind that in the event of a tax audit, the production of correct invoices would be time-bound. This might not be an easy task for groups of companies of significant size having a central back office centre processing volumes of transactions for entities across the globe. However, having check controls in place are tantamount to a reduced financial risk of having input VAT blocked. This does not underestimate the responsibilities and obligations of EU suppliers to issue proper tax invoices. From a local perspective, in the course of an inspection, the Maltese VAT authorities do look into invoices with particular scrutiny.
In conclusion and to recap, the following are the invoice details required by the EU VAT Directive:
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