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I'm moving my household from Austria to Canada and have sourced several quotes from international moving companies based in Austria. The quotes are very different as to how they treat VAT:

  • Some of the quotes include an explicit calculation of 20% for VAT on the entire service.
  • Some of the quotes don't include a calculation for VAT but state that the total price may be subject to VAT.
  • Some of the quotes state that VAT is not calculated because it does not apply to moves from an EU country to a non-EU country.

I tried to search for the actual regulations but didn't come up with any primary sources. I did find web pages of several moving companies in other EU countries that state (without citing any sources) that VAT is not applicable on moves to destinations outside the EU. For example:

Who is correct here? Do I need to pay VAT on moving services from Austria to Canada or not? If not, where is the original regulation to which I can point the VAT-charging moving companies I contacted so that they knock 20% off their quotes?

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I believe I have located the relevant section of the Austrian VAT law. This is in item 3.a of §6 (Steuerbefreiungen) of the Umsatzsteuergesetz 1994:

Steuerbefreiungen § 6. (1) Von den unter § 1 Abs. 1 Z 1 fallenden Umsätzen sind steuerfrei: … 3. a) die Beförderungen von Gegenständen im grenzüberschreitenden Beförderungsverkehr und im internationalen Eisenbahnfrachtverkehr und andere sonstige Leistungen, wenn sich die Leistungen… bb) unmittelbar auf Gegenstände der Ausfuhr beziehen oder auf eingeführte Gegenstände beziehen, die im externen Versandverfahren in das Drittlandsgebiet befördert werden…

My non-professional translation:

Tax exemptions § 6. (1) Of the sales falling under Section 1, Paragraph 1, Line 1, the following are tax-free: … 3. a) the transport of articles in cross-border transport and in international rail freight transport and other such services, when said services… bb) relate directly to exported items or to imported items that are transported to third-country territory in the external transit procedure…

I could be misreading the legalese here, but it seems to cover permanent removal of household goods in connection with a personal move to a country outside the EU.

It seems that Germany has a very similar provision in its VAT tax code:

§ 4 Steuerbefreiungen bei Lieferungen und sonstigen Leistungen Von den unter § 1 Abs. 1 Nr. 1 fallenden Umsätzen sind steuerfrei: … 3. die folgenden sonstigen Leistungen: a) die grenzüberschreitenden Beförderungen von Gegenständen, die Beförderungen im internationalen Eisenbahnfrachtverkehr und andere sonstige Leistungen, wenn sich die Leistungen aa) unmittelbar auf Gegenstände der Ausfuhr beziehen oder auf eingeführte Gegenstände beziehen, die im externen Versandverfahren in das Drittlandsgebiet befördert werden…

Ireland's VAT law similarly has a section on exemptions that covers exports, or more specifically "The carriage of goods in the State by or on behalf of a person in performing a contract to transfer the goods to a place outside the Community."

Given these similarities, I suspect that the German, Austrian, and Irish laws are the local implementations of an EU directive binding on all EU member states. I haven't (yet) located this putative directive, nor have I (nor will I) check the VAT laws in all EU states to see if they make the same exemption, so it's possible I'm wrong about this generalization.

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