General fiscal representation (GFR) is often applied in cases where limited fiscal representation (LFR) is not legally possible, such as when purchasing goods from other EU Member States.
Article 23: reverse-charging VAT authorization
Many of the companies that register for VAT in the Netherlands also want to import goods from outside the European Union. This is always possible, but the tax authorities do not grant an Article 23 permit for the reverse charge of VAT on imports to non-Dutch companies. This means that a general fiscal representative must be appointed. Any Dutch business can act as a general fiscal representative; however, because import always involves movement in terms of logistics, it is often customs agents and logistics companies that act as general fiscal representatives. Accountants will also often act as general fiscal representatives. A general fiscal representative is responsible for all transactions carried out by the company represented in the Netherlands. Only once a general fiscal representative has been appointed will the tax authorities grant the VAT number an Article 23 permit.
The general fiscal representative must provide surety to the Dutch tax authorities and is liable for the maximum amount of the surety per year. But because the tax authorities can make a revised assessment going back five years, the liability of the representative is actually five times the amount of the surety. In general, the representative will therefore also ask its foreign client for a surety of five times the deposit that they need to pay to the tax authorities. The amount of the surety that the tax authorities request from the representative is laid down by law. The amount of VAT that the foreign company is expected to owe in a quarter must be guaranteed by the representative.
A general fiscal representative has to apply for a specific authorization for the company that they are representing. A complete and comprehensive VAT administration must be kept and, combined with the application process and liability, means general fiscal representation is significantly more labour-intensive than limited fiscal representation. The VAT number also allows for sales within the Netherlands and for the deduction of input tax. It is clear that GFR offers many possibilities for logistics and the administrative process, but it does mean that the organization becomes far more detailed and the obligations become more intensive and prolonged. While LFR has become common practice in the Netherlands, GFR still requires customization. This also carries the risk that the procedures and obligations related to GFR are underestimated, resulting in extensive liability claims both for the fiscal representative and for their client.