Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

How to Set Up VAT When Expanding to Europe

Alex Lyon from Avask Ta

Available_Black copy
Available_Black copy
Available_Black copy

x Advisors works with over 2,000 eCommerce and FBA clients. Her role is to help them understand, register for, manage and comply with VAT registrations and payments.

  • Did you know that when selling online in Europe the taxes (VAT) are included in the purchase price?
  • Did you know if you don’t increase your list price your margins shrink by the VAT amount?
  • Did you know that if you have a UK company there is a minimum total revenue threshold amount you can reach before you have to collect VAT?
  • Did you know the biggest mistake made by US companies is not registering for VAT, but that you can sell on Amazon prior to having the registration number?

If you answered “no” to at least one of the above questions…and plan to expand to Europe, hearing Alex’s explanation of the VAT process could be critical to your expansion success.

Video: Not Registering for Value-Added Taxes is a Costly Mistake Selling Abroad

Episode Highlights:

  • The biggest mistake Alex sees is not registering for VAT, and it is costly!
  • You can sell before being registered, but it’ll cost you if you don’t increase your prices to account for VAT.
  • You do not have to set up a foreign corporation to sell in Europe, regardless of your overseas location: i.e. US, Singapore, etc.
  • You only collect in countries you are shipping from (there is a caveat).
  • Amazon does not show VAT charges separately in your seller account.
  • The PanEU program makes sense for some, most only register in the UK and Germany.
  • If you don’t pay VAT…your Amazon account will be suspended and/or closed (eventually).
  • “Import VAT” is charged on the inventory shipped into the country and paid immediately.
  • “Sales VAT” is charged on the retail price of your goods, and paid quarterly.
  • The UK and Germany are the two largest markets for selling online in the EU.
  • The UK is the easiest to expand to from the US because of language and the challenges of shipping to Germany.
  • Wiring VAT payments can take 4-5 days and a currency account in Europe shortens the wire times.
  • Using an intermediary bank, or currency account, can save 1-3% in exchange rate fees.
  • With Avask, the costs to register for VAT in the UK is about $200 USD, and then about $1200 USD per year.
  • Caveat to costs: “Distance Selling Thresholds”, if met, require more than $1200 per year because VAT is required in countries you do not store inventory in.


Mark: Good morning Joe. How are you?

Joe: I’m good Mark. How are you?

Mark: I’m hanging in there. I’m enjoying the weather lately and getting outdoors a little bit not working as hard but we’re still recording podcasts. And you recorded one on an interesting topic and something that I think more and more people are having to face that have Amazon businesses and that’s some of the tax implications going overseas.

Joe: Yes. Actually, anybody who has a physical products business that wants to sell in Europe and it’s on value added taxes, oh my God not exciting at all. But did you know real quickly that you know obviously here in the States you buy something and then the tax is added? When you buy something online, or in Europe, UK, Germany, France, Italy, etcetera the price is built into…I’m sorry the taxes are built into the price. So if it’s 120$ the item might be 100 but the taxes are 20. And a lot of buyers that ex…by sellers that expand overseas don’t quite understand that concept initially and they could immediately start losing margin by not increasing the prices for the value added taxes. A great conversation it was with Alex Lyon from AVASK Tax Advisors they have over 2,000 FBA clients and e-commerce clients throughout the world that sell and need value added tax compliance so really informative stuff. And anybody that’s considering expanding overseas should absolutely listen to this because it’s not that complicated once you listen to what she says.

Mark: What are the consequences if somebody is not taking care of the value added tax? Do you know by any chance?

Joe: Yeah absolutely. So they’re very-very compliant over there. It’s not gray like it is here in the States, its black and white. So the problem is that if you sell in let’s say the UK and you’re not registered, you’re going to be determined. Amazon has to share the information with I think it’s the HMRC. They have to by law; they share the details of everybody that sells on Amazon. So the HMRC has access to your sales information and therefore can force you to pay the value added taxes that you should have collected. If you didn’t collect it you’re going to pay for that out of your pocket simple as that. So you’ve got two choices: pay for it out of your pocket and lose that 15 to 20% margin and probably make no money at all or walk away and be banned from selling in in Europe on Amazon.

Mark: That’s significant. I think moving across the ocean to selling in different countries is a huge opportunity for anyone. Buying an e-commerce business that wants to ship overseas that you need to start taking advantage of that opportunity but you also have to go through some of the understanding of what sort of regulations are in play. I think this you know isn’t…this is not exactly an exciting topic but you know and I think it’s a really important topic for anyone to listen to, to possibly unlock an opportunity that your competitors are not taking advantage of.

Joe: Yeah and before we say let’s jump into it let me just say this that I’ve seen explosive growth with people moving and expanding their products to the EEO, explosive growth in particular France. I mean the UK and Germany. And the cost associated with it using someone like AVASK and they’re not the only ones who do it, it’s not all that expensive. You’re looking at maybe 1500 $ to get the ball rolling and get it done right. And you can you can start selling immediately as long as you’re registering and then you pay from the date you started selling. It’s really not that complicated. There’s a lot to it but it’s really-really important that if you’re going to sell overseas which I think everybody should if they have real growth plans that they listen to the whole podcast.

Mark: All right with that I will say let’s jump into it.

Joe: Hey folks it’s Joe from Quiet Light Brokerage and today I’ve got to Alex Lyon from AVASK Tax Advisors with me. She’s an expert on VAT which I believe is value added tax. Something a lot of folks trying to expand their e-commerce businesses over to the UK and beyond really need some help on. So Alex welcome to the Quiet Light Podcast.

Alex: Thank you. Thank you, Joe. Hi everyone. Yeah as Joe has mentioned my name is Alex. I am Indirect Tax Client Manager of AVASK. So I’ve been working here for three years now just helping e-commerce sellers expand over into Europe. So we’ve got over 2,000 Amazon sellers that we work with. UK companies also companies based all over the world as well. So yeah that’s been us.

Joe: That’s fantastic. Are they all FBA clients (Fulfilled By Amazon) or do they you know sell off FBA as well (off Amazon) with their own e-commerce businesses?

Alex: It varies so a high majority of people are FBA sellers just because it’s a lot easier to hand everything over to Amazon and kind of let them do fulfillment. But there are quite a large number of Amazon Sellers as well such as shipment from your own country which obviously makes a lot of things easier in terms of the VAT because you don’t have to actually declare the sales in Europe because you’re not fulfilling from his countries. So yeah it’s kind of a majority FBA but we do have MFM sellers as well.

Joe: Okay, good. Good. Good. So let’s talk about the basics, get things straight here for our listeners because a lot of people here in the states are expanding their accounts beyond Amazon into the European countries and seeing explosive growth. But the big mystery is how to set up the VAT’s and how to find an agency like yours to handle it most of the costs associated with it are. So you can start am I getting it right is it Value Added Tax and tell us how it works?

Alex: Correct. Yes, it’s value added tax. It’s the same principle across the European countries but they have different rights and different filing frequencies. The easiest way to explain it would be that it’s similar to the sales tax you have in the US. But the main difference would be the way which you include it within the price of your product. So this is kind of the biggest hurdle where people fall over on where they don’t actually include the VAT amount within the price of the product which means that you’re not actually collecting the VAT from your customer but you still have to pay it to the revenue. So you’re essentially paying it out from your pocket if you don’t include it. So in the US for someone like myself when I come over I don’t realize it works like this when I go to the checkout in sell sites because I didn’t know and I’m kind of how…where is this amount coming from. Whereas in the UK you don’t know that it’s already there in the price of the product so yes its essentially the same as the sales tax but it’s more hidden.

Joe: So Amazon is collecting that 20% for units built into the purchase price of the product. So if it’s 100 $ if the VAT is 20% for instance, 20% is something set aside to pay your VAT…your taxes?

Alex: Yes.

Joe: Okay.

Alex: So you need to list in on Amazon for the straight 120. Amazon won’t do that for you.

Joe: Okay and do a lot of people make that mistake where they just list their business without bumping it for the value added tax?

Alex: Yeah there’s a large number of that do. Without getting kind of proper advice on how VAT actually works. So it is…see it’s hard enough to in taxes in your own country let alone I’m kind of working out how to do it in a foreign country. So yeah that’s a big hurdle where quite a lot of people fall over on.

Joe: Okay. So you’re located in the UK. AVASK is located in the UK. But I think I saw offices around in different parts of the world, is that right?

Alex: Yes that’s right. So we’ve got an office in London and I’m on based on in Winchester which is about an hour south of London. And then we’ve also got offices in Shenzhen and LA. We try to come over to the US as much as possible as well just because oversea it’s kind of US sellers that we’ve [inaudible 00:08:19.0] work with. So yeah we try and get over to the events as much as possible as well and get that travelling.

Joe: So the vast majority of clients as you said are US based clients and they start selling and and then expanded to the European countries?

Alex: Yeah, definitely. Amazon is oversea, it’s huge in America and it’s just kind of been taking off here in Europe as well. So it’s a massive market in Europe and I think if you’re product is successful and you’ve been able to make it successive there in the US then there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t also be able to do in Europe.

Joe: Okay. So let’s say I own an account, I want to reach out to you what…and I want to sell in the European countries, step one two three can you walk us through that?

Alex: Yup sure. So step one is to work out where you’re going to be shipping your products from. So most people go with the UK or Germany just because they’re the biggest markets, UK is obviously a lot easier because you don’t have to translate any of your products. So whichever country you decide you’re going to fulfill from you then have to get a VAT number in that country and also an EORI number for all of your shipments. So those two numbers you have to have those before you make a shipment. If you make a shipment without those numbers you’re going to get charged import VAT and then you won’t necessarily be able to reclaim that back whereas you would if you have the numbers. So that’s very important. In terms of the registration process, engaging a UK agent is really helpful because you’ve got someone who can communicate with tax authorities on your behalf. And that also means that we know exactly what documents are needed for each of the registration. We’ll process all of that for you. Once the application has been submitted and you’re waiting for the numbers to come through at that point you should start getting your listings up. Working out some shipping quotes and kind of working out all the details on actually how you’re going to get your product there and what the listings are going to look like.

Joe: Okay. And I just had a conversation with someone that is buying an Amazon business and they were confused about when the VAT was going to be applied. Is it to the amount of products being shipped into the country or is it the amount that’s sold?

Alex: It’s both. So if you’re doing FBA you’re making a box shipment to an Amazon warehouse. That box shipment you’re going to have to declare at customs. So any shipment that’s out into a warehouse is going to have import VAT at UK customs charged on it that’s assuming of course that your shipment has come from outside of Europe, so most people ship from China or from the US. So import VAT is going to be charged on the cost of your goods. When you put together a commercial invoice of that shipment, that’s the amount of the import fees then we charge on also with freight charges and things.

Joe: And then what time do they pay that import VAT, when it arrives?

Alex: Yeah correct so usually depending on what shipping company you’ll go for usually they’ll pay it for you and invoice it back to you. But they still have to do your kind of clearance number to create a shipment.

Joe: And then do they have to…then they collect that VAT when it sells and they keep it or is it a different…are we talking about two different things? The import VAT versus the VAT that’s charged to the customer on the Amazon account is that two different things or it’s the same?

Alex: It’s the same tax but it’s computed in different ways. So import VAT is non-cost whereas VAT on your sales is on the retail price of your goods. And they’re also kind of declared differently so with the VAT when you [inaudible 00:11:35.18] you pay that in your VAT within each quarter. You don’t pay that immediately when you make the sale. Whereas the import VAT, you pay it immediately at customs. And the way that those kind of…they tie in together although they’re separately you…it’s within your VAT return. So you do your VAT filing every quarter. So every three months you declare the amount of sales you made and then obviously you’re declaring the VAT that’s due on your sales and then any import VAT that you pay you can get that refunded and it’s used as a credit within your VAT return.

Joe: And how easy is it within the Amazon seller account to see that money that you’ve collected and have it match up against what you’re going to owe? Or is it not as black and white as I think it would be or is it really relatively easy?

Alex: It’s gotten a lot better, to be honest. And so Amazon have got a specific VAT report that you can now download so you can see the breakdown. But in terms of the actual…when your customer purchases an item they won’t be able to see the breakdown of VAT and the amount that’s going to the amount that’s going to the revenue. Another kind of stumbling block where a few Amazon sellers fall over where they don’t get the kind of proper…do the proper research before is that’s that although Amazon take their fees from the money you receive in terms of your sales, the VAT is [inaudible 00:12:49.6] on the total sales price. You can’t deduct Amazon fees and then the amount that you actually receive from Amazon is what you pay VAT on it’s the total amount that you’re costumer is paying you pay VAT on.

Joe: Why is there any calculation at all that the seller does? Doesn’t Amazon calculate it for you it seems like they would since they know the exact sales?

Alex: Yes so, unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. You have to include it. You have to price your product you have to do your pricing matrix. If you’re expecting to move due your pricing and then Amazon add the VAT on it…that’s not going to happen. You have to make sure you’re including them.

Joe: Well then I was thinking in terms of Amazon that in your pricing you would say this is my price and then this is my VAT amount it’s not done that way you just simply mark it up to 120$ if it’s a 100$ item.

Alex: Yeah, exactly. Mark out straight away. And you can tell Amazon with the VAT calculation service you can let them know if you’ve got any kind of reduce rated or zero rated items which will reflect on the actual sales report. But it’s not going to affect what your actual retail price is on Amazon and what it’s listed as.

Joe: Okay. Let’s talk about volume. Here in the States, there’s a lot of question about when should I start collecting sales taxes and [inaudible 00:13:58.6] and all these different [inaudible 00:13:59.8] unfortunately not black and white yet. It’s still very-very gray. I had a situation where I listed a business for sale and asked about collecting VAT and he said well I’m not…I haven’t hit that threshold yet in the UK. And I think it was a UK corporation as well, can you talk about thresholds and when and if you have to collect. In different [inaudible 00:14:21.4] what if you’re a UK corporation or a Hong Kong Corporation if you’re someone at the LOC or corporation here in the States?

Alex: Okay, so if you have a company that’s incorporated anywhere apart from the UK then you have to register for VAT immediately so that’s sale number one whether it’s going to have 1$, 10$, or 100$ it’s straight away so no threshold whatsoever, you have to be registered. If however, you have a UK company there’s a threshold of £85,000 and that’s in terms of a turnover over a 12 month loaning period. So if you hit that within three months you have to be registered if you hit that in 11 months you have to be registered but that’s just for a UK company. So if you’ve got an overseas entity you have to register straight to it there’s no threshold.

Joe: As far as buyers go, when you and I talked about this and have conversations with buyers when they buy an Amazon account that has a European component to it there’s always questions about TMI not going to be collecting during a certain period of time, how do we sign up, how do we get that registered, what kind of danger I’m going to be in. I think you said the other day in a call separately in preparation for this that you can start pricing your products right away while you register and you’re not going to…you’re not going to lose any grounds or sales while you’re registering and then paying VAT down the road a bit. Can you talk about that again a little bit so that…and talk about it from a buyer for perspective. If say someone is buying an Amazon account and taking it over and would reach out to you to register how do they ensure that they’re collecting from day one of ownership and that they’re not going to…not get themselves in a little bit of trouble?

Alex: Well, first of all, I want to make sure, well check whether the Amazon account has already previously been charging VAT. So what we’ve discussed in terms of the pricing, obviously if you’re taking over an Amazon account you’re buying that account. And if they haven’t been including VAT in the prices, you obviously then need to…the first kind of goal is to straight away go ahead and increase everything by that 20%.

Joe: Let me just jump in here for a sec. So that’s a consideration when someone…this is for the buyers that are listening, correct me here Alex if I’m wrong but when someone’s buying an account and the owner has UK corporation, if they’re below that annual threshold of £85,000 in revenue they’re not charging VAT. But if I buy it and I’m not a UK corporation I immediately have to increase the prices in order to collect VAT or leave it alone and I’m going to lose 20% of my sales to the VAT. Is that correct?

Alex: That’s correct. Yes, so you because you’re an overseas company you have to charge VAT on your sales even though they haven’t been charged previously.

Joe: Okay really critical for buyers to understand that when it’s a UK corporation. Okay sorry to interrupt please continue.

Alex: Okay so once you have then kind of taken over the company you can actually back date a registration. So say I’m talking over…I’m buying an Amazon account under my US company from a UK company we’ll stick to that example. From the 1st of May you know going through the whole process it’s taken a couple weeks to actually get everything set up. When if it got to the 1st of June and you still hadn’t registered you can then back date that to the 1st of May. So as soon as you know that you’re going to be buying the Amazon Seller Central, I would make sure that you’re charging VAT to your customers because although you may not be registered you can backdate the registration. And it means that you have to pay VAT in all sales you make previous even though at that actual moment in time you weren’t registered but you’re back dating registration.

Joe: Okay just to summarize. Don’t change a thing in terms of prices assuming it’s a…let’s go with back to the it’s a non UK entity so that they’re a US entity buying a US entity but they have a UK account to it. If they’re charging 120$ now and they’re collecting VAT you don’t have to change prices at all.

Alex: Correct.

Joe: You’re going to register with a firm like yours and then when it’s time to pay for the first time you’re already collecting those and you’ll go back dating and calculate what’s due.

Alex: Yes, exactly. Yeah.

Joe: And how often do you pay? I think you said was it quarterly?

Alex: Yes quarterly so every three months yeah.

Joe: And is it the same every three months? Is it the beginning of the 15th of the next quarter is when you have to pay the taxes or is it depends upon when you register?

Alex: So you got one month and seven days to actually do the filing and make the payment. As you can fall into different stagger groups in VAT quarters so it’s not necessarily you are January to March you can be February to April or March to May. So there’s three kind of different groups of VAT filings you could fall into. Your VAT advisor should obviously let you know and would be contacting you when everything’s due. In terms of the frequency yeah it is quarterly.

Joe: Listen, Alex, as you can see I’m an old guy, got some gray hair here. I fell asleep in accounting class in college. I honest to God I did fell asleep, the next class came in and I think I’ve told the story again so I won’t go to much detail. I don’t like this stuff. I don’t like this level of detail because of what I do for a living it’s absolutely critical as an entrepreneur and know how important it is. Do I have to really…if I’m the guy that’s buying an FBA business and it’s got European components to it, how much do I have to really know or can I just rely on you guys to do the work for me?

Alex: You can definitely rely on us to kind of advice you and let you know. But it is…I do think it’s good to know kind of the basics of what you’re doing. In terms of Amazon, you’ve got two different programs so European Fulfillment Network or Pan-European Program. Pan-European Program is great you get to move your stock around to seven different countries [inaudible 00:20:03.1] you’re stock is close that your costumers time are positive reasons to do that. But if you just kind of turn that on on your Amazon Seller Central and you’d haven’t done any prior research, you won’t know that you then actually have to get [inaudible 00:20:17.6] registered in seven countries. You have to do filings maybe month in more than half of these countries. So everything that you do in terms of where your stock is located, where your sales are going will have an impact on your VAT registration, your VAT applications within Europe. So yes it’s good you should have [inaudible 00:20:36.6] in there. We’d let you know but don’t be completely ignorant to what you’re doing and where your stock is going.

Joe: Hey it sounds like you just touched on being able to shift from seven different countries in a penny you…there’s a lot of potential savings in terms of the shipping costs and fulfillment costs that you’re closer to the customer. But you talked earlier I think that if you’ve got your inventory in the UK or Germany in the two biggest centers that you register for VAT in those countries what if your inventory is spread around seven different countries so you’re closer to the customers do you then have to register in all of those countries?

Alex: You do. Yeah, as soon as your stock is in that country and you can sell in from there you have to be VAT registered in that country. So VAT is basically payable to the country and is being done close at supply. So if your stock is in a Czech Republic warehouse the place of supply VAT sale when it’s going from the Czech Republic to the customer in Italy is going to be in Czech Republic. So being VAT registered in the UK is completely useless.

Joe: Okay.

Alex: So yeah-

Joe: Very much like nexus here in the States if there’s 15 Amazon centers theory is that if you have 15 different locations of inventory you have nexus in those states and that’s where you collect sales taxes. Not as formal as where you are. Tell us about the biggest hurdles and biggest mistakes that you’ve seen people make…well that you have in been bringing people to the European countries and selling an FBA. What things are really obvious? What mistakes are really common that people can avoid?

Alex: So first one is to not get registered at all. So with that threshold, quite a few people get confused that the 85,000 threshold is applicable to them; sounds really appealing and really lovely so they just don’t register full stop. And then when you do get registered you just do it from today’s date because [inaudible 00:22:27.3] realize but now I know that I’m going to do it from today. There’s a huge amount of compliant checks going on with the revenue in the UK. They are hurdling through every single Amazon account and doing tax investigations. You know we’ve had to help clients where we’re going all the way back to 2012 when the legislation came in that they have to register. So that’s kind of six years of taxes you’re going to have to go back and pay and if you don’t your Amazon can get shut down. So the first kind of hurdle is actually getting registered. It’s kind of what you’d think is the most simplest part just to do the application.

Joe: Six years of VAT taxes you’ve had people in that situation?

Alex: Yeah.

Joe: I would think that in some situations people will just throw their hands up in the air, close the account, and walk away, and not pay the taxes.

Alex: Yeah.

Joe: Is that something where if you’re a US resident where you’re going to be found and have to pay those taxes in some way shape or form?

Alex: Well you spent a nice six years building up your Amazon account. You’ve got all of your reviews you know you’ve built up that kind of brand in the UK so to kind of just throw your hands up and walk away is a big thing to do in the first place. Because even if you opened up a new Amazon account you’re not going to have all of those reviews and obviously the name of you as a director of that company when you do a VAT application in the UK you have to state that information and you have to kind of give all of those details of yourself anyway and yeah so you’ll have-

Joe: So if you’re going to walk away there walk in away forever.

Alex: Yeah.

Joe: Unless they cheat and get around the system somewhere.

Alex: Exactly and unfortunately like in the US…so as not like in the US there’s now amnesty in the UK so if you think that you’re going to be negotiating and kind of say that oh I’ll make sure to pay everything going forward so I’ll pay a percentage you wouldn’t get that and you also have to pay mass penalty as well so it do not kind of sound all that great if you haven’t done the right thing to start with.

Joe: Okay. So I’ve talked to a lot of Amazon sellers. I’ve seen their financials. Some people tell me you know I’ve done the analysis Joe and it’s just not worth the effort for me to sell in Germany and Italy in France and in the UK. It’s just not worth it. And I think they’re completely and utterly wrong because I’ve seen the explosive growth. You’ve got 2,000 FBA clients. What country are you seeing people get the most bang for their buck? What’s growing rapidly over there and what country should they pay attention to the most?

Alex: UK and Germany definitely. They’re just the two biggest markets. France is…does follow very closely but yeah 100% they’re the biggest.

Joe: Okay. And the easiest of those two might be the UK because you don’t have to do translation?

Alex: Yeah, exactly. And I’m shipping direct into the UK is a lot easier than it is shipping to Germany.

Joe: Okay. Okay. There are a lot of concerns about money laundering. I’ve heard people talk about this and how complicated it is and on the German side and German FBA accounts. Am I just hearing people with sort of the chicken little mentality that the sky is falling and being really paranoid or is there something to that?

Alex: I think sales in Germany in terms of my money laundering and everything is all going through Amazon. So amazon are collecting the funds and sending it to you. You don’t need for some representation in Germany so payments go directly to the tax authorities whereas in France you’ve got to pay to your French advisor and then it goes to the tax authorities so yeah I’m not sure of what grounds.

Joe: Do you even know who Chicken Little is or what that theory…okay, I see you just-

Alex: No sorry.

Joe: Okay. It’s a cartoon character here in the States disguised-

Alex: Okay [crosstalk 00:25:55.9]

Joe: I used that terminology when there’s so many people online talking about all the horrible things that can happen when you’re own an Amazon seller account as opposed to the reality of how many great things are happening and it’s changing people’s lives.

Alex: I think that’s like when you go to a restaurant or you go anywhere, you’re more likely to leave a bad review if you’ve had a bad experience whereas if you’ve had agood review you probably leave any review at all. I do notice that happen.

Joe: A hundred percent, you’re absolutely right. One of the things that I see often and I know you guys are AVASK tax advisor so I want to talk about that advisory part and the tax part. But one of the things that I see happen is that sometimes when sellers expand overseas they just take the easy route and they’d let Amazon handle making deposits directly to their US bank account. Whereas other people that take a little bit of time, do some research, still use World’s First Bank or somebody else to be that intermediary and the money will go there at a lower exchange rate saving them tens in…tens of thousands of dollars annually. Do you find that to be the case, do you would advise folks to do that and if so what world banks do you suggest they use or look at or is that a service that you provide as well?

Alex: Yeah, definitely. So if you kind of first of all from a VAT paying perspective there’s…most people have to pay via wire transfer. And if you’re getting kind of close to the payment deadline it can take for to five working days for that payment to clear with HMRC. They then if any payment is received late they will give you a surcharge with subtentiative liability and that can go up to 15 cents. So if you’ve got a currency account located here in Europe the time that it takes for the funds to actually clear and consider the payment to be made is a lot quicker. So that is a big benefit of getting a bank account over here even just a currency account.

Joe: Can you define what a currency account is and how it differentiates from a bank account, please?

Alex: So it has kind of all the benefits of a bank account and they’re very similar but I don’t think I mean don’t 100% take my word for this. Obviously, it’s better to speak to a currency account provider. But you can’t hold large amounts of funds in that account. It’s kind of like an intermediary way. You’re basically doing a transfer and a transfer to your local account. You can’t also do things like direct debits and buy out checks and things like that.

Joe: Okay. And as I understand it just for people listening that currency account I think Amazon, for instance, may charge you if you are a…may charge you 4% currency exchange. Whereas the currency account you may only be charged 2%. And so you might be…and these are ballpark numbers so you’re saving 2% on whatever amount of money is flowing through that. And if it’s a million dollars, you do the math on that. If it’s 10,000 $ you do the math on that. So I see a lot of people do that as well. That’s what a currency account is right?

Alex: Yeah. And especially with kind of making payments in Europe in terms of VAT you’re going to be transferring your money from Amazon to the US and then back so the UK again so you’re kind of transferring it a couple of times and to make that payment. So if you want to incorporate a UK company [inaudible 00:29:08.3] you could have get an actual high street UK bank account which is obviously a benefit of that UK company. You could just kind of grow the funds and leave it in a high street bank account in UK.

Joe: Well, let’s talk about that for a minute. Maybe I should have asked this at the very beginning and listeners I apologize because this is a question I get offset. You know I’m expanding to the UK, I’m expanding to Germany do I have to set up a UK business with a UK address or German company? Do I have to set those up or can I simply be a US based company selling products overseas? Can you explain, you’ve got 2,000 clients what are they doing? What do you recommend?

Alex: You do not have to incorporate a UK company. It’s the majority of people use their overseas company just because it is a lot easier and has less administration in terms of the accounts that you are drawing up each year. It’s all just falling onto one company. You’ve got your CPA in the US. He’s doing everything for you. You don’t have to hire a CPA equivalent in the UK so ask accountants to do your [inaudible 00:30:03.9] paying your kind of all those tax due filings. In terms of what’s actually best is really hard for me to say because it is on a case by case basis. It’s you know do you want to build a brand, do you want a UK bank account, do you want to take advantage of the VAT threshold, there’s so many factors. It’s not one, it’s one size fits all, unfortunately.

Joe: Okay but the simple answer is for anybody listening if you’re US based with a US bank account a US corporation, you do not have to set up a European company a UK company or in Germany that’s misinformation. You don’t have to do that. You can register for VAT and start collecting and paying and still have your one CPA here in the US. Is that correct?

Alex: Yes.

Joe: Good. Of your 2,000 plus or minus clients, what are their sizes? I mean you have you got people that are doing you know a million, two million dollars a month in revenue and those that are just doing five or 10,000 $ a month? How does it range and how does it flash out [inaudible 00:31:01.5] so we just know more about you guys.

Alex: Yeah, exactly that range I don’t [inaudible 00:31:05.4] information but-

Joe: Maybe I should have said a half a million a month.

Alex: Yeah there’s a huge range there is. And that’s for the UK companies and also overseas companies. You know we’ve got a lot of Chinese clients as well. We’ve got kind of a whole Chinese department [inaudible 00:31:20.6]. So yeah the range is massive. We can help you whatever size.

Joe: Okay. Let’s say that I’m doing a quarter of a million dollars a month here in the States and I decide I want to expand overseas and I’m going to start with UK and Germany. Aside from my inventory costs and getting the product there, what are my costs for someone like you in setting up VAT and getting registered and compliant and all that stuff?

Alex: Well it depends which country you’re going for. If it’s just one if it’s selling-

Joe: Say I’m gonna start with two. I’m going to start with the UK, actually I’m just gonna go with one. Let’s go with UK.

Alex: Okay 150£ registration one up fee and then 870£ a year annual compliance and that doesn’t depend on turnover. So whatever your turnover is it’s the same.

Joe: That’s pretty cheap, if I’m doing a quarter million a month, 150€ a couple of hundred bucks tops and then maybe a thousand US dollars a year simple as that. Who calculates what my VAT is owed each month? Is it me and my CPA or is that part of your 870 5,000-

Alex: Yeah we do that. We calculate everything. And you can give us limited access to your seller central we’ll go in and download all the reports directly. You don’t have to be a part of that process. Your sole responsibility is to make the payment.

Joe: Can I just have you make the payment for me if you have access to funds or you just tell me what to pay and I pay it?

Alex: No we don’t do that. We will tell you what to pay and then you have to make the payment yeah.

Joe: This is…okay I’m a little [inaudible 00:32:47.2] I haven’t talked to anybody about pricing but to me, this is so incredibly fair and reasonable. Are you guys…is this the standard fees? I mean this is normal cost or you’re really expensive or really cheap? What’s the situation?

Alex: I think that’s about average. We pride ourselves over the service that we give kind of in comparison to the actual fees to other providers and things. We don’t get too hung up on what the actual charges are in terms of that. What I would say though, I don’t want to be [inaudible 00:33:16.2] in terms of that 870. Because if your turnover was in the millions you will be breaching distance selling thresholds to all of the European countries.

Joe: You’ll be what? Say that again.

Alex: Breaching distance selling thresholds, we haven’t spoken about that so-

Joe: Distance selling threshold.

Alex: We’ll go into that really quickly. So if you’ve got all of your stock in a UK company…country sorry company the UK country, UK warehouse and is going to customers in Germany. So UK from a warehouse going to a customer in Germany, if their sales go over a certain threshold to Germany you then have to register to VAT in Germany even though you’re not fulfilling from that country.

Joe: Okay.

Alex: Makes sense?

Joe: Yeah, all right. This is the part where Joe doesn’t love this level of detail but thank you for that.

Alex: It’s just that I don’t want to be misleading in terms of 870£ you know whatever your turnover is because that’s all UK fee. If your turnover is massive you will have an obligation to register in other countries as well.

Joe: And if the turnover is massive to probably going to be shipping from those countries to save that fulfillment cost anyway.

Alex: Yeah, yeah.

Joe: And that’s something that they would do the math on and you guys may help them with.

Alex: Yeah.

Joe: Okay we’re running out of time. We’re about 30 minutes in which is actually a bit long but this is a fascinating subject, a critical one, and I’m sure some people just they fell asleep because it’s also not their favorite which is a shame. Because the number one thing people can do to make their business more valuable is get the books right. Get the details like this absolutely correct. It’s going to help with the transition of the business as well as well as the value. Alex thank you so much. Any last thoughts that you can share with people listening? Whether they’re buying and selling in terms of what they should do and how they should do it other than just do it and do it right.

Alex:  I honestly I would just say to speak to someone you know we do free consultations [inaudible 00:35:07.0]  if you just give us a call then we can just run through everything with you. There’s you know all though we’ve covered a lot in half an hour it’s a lot of information, there are still some things that haven’t been mentioned so yeah I would just speak so when I mention we’ve got all the information for before you completely just jump start in.

Joe: Okay. Well, we’ll make sure that all of your contact information is in the show notes.

Alex: All right.

Joe: But for those listening that can’t see them there it’s AVASK tax advisors that’s A-V-A-S-K tax advisors and they do free consultations. I think it’s really important as a buyer or seller if you’re planning on selling over in the UK. Alex thanks so much for your time today I really appreciate it.

Alex: Okay thanks. Thanks, everyone.


Alexandra Lyon

Indirect Tax Client Manager

Skype: alex.avask

Email: [email protected]

T: +1.213.330.4904; +


James Shayler

International VAT Technical Officer

Skype: james.shayler16

Email: [email protected]

T: +1.213.330.4904; +

Thinking of Selling Now or Later?

Get your free valuation & marketplace-readiness assessment. We’ll never push you to sell. And we’ll always be honest about whether or not selling is the right choice for you.