The European Union Value Added Tax (""EU VAT"") is a value added tax encompassing member states in the European Union Value Added Tax Area. Joining in this is compulsory for member states of the European Union. As a consumption tax, the EU VAT taxes the consumption of goods and services in the EU VAT area. The EU VAT's key issue asks where the supply and consumption occurs thereby determining which member state will collect the VAT and what VAT rate will be charged.
Each Member State's national VAT legislation must comply with the provisions of EU VAT law as set out in Directive 2006/112/EC. This Directive sets out the basic framework for EU VAT, but does allows Member States some degree of flexibility in implementation of VAT legislation. For example different rates of VAT are allowed in different EU member states. However Directive 2006/112 requires Member states to have a minimum standard rate of VAT of 15% and one or two reduced rates not to be below 5%. Some Member States have a 0% VAT rate on certain supplies- these Member States would have agreed this as part of their EU Accessionr Treaty, (for example, newspapers and certain magazines in Belgium). The current maximum rate in operation in the EU is 25%, though member states are free to set higher rates.
VAT that is charged by a business and paid by its customers is known as ""output VAT"" (that is, VAT on its output supplies). VAT that is paid by a business to other businesses on the supplies that it receives is known as ""input VAT"" (that is, VAT on its input supplies). A business is generally able to recover input VAT to the extent that the input VAT is attributable to (that is, used to make) its taxable outputs. Input VAT is recovered by setting it against the output VAT for which the business is required to account to the government, or, if there is an excess, by claiming a repayment from the government.
The VAT Directive (prior to 1 January 2007 referred to as the Sixth VAT Directive) requires certain goods and services to be exempt from VAT (for example, postal services, medical care, lending, insurance, betting), and certain other goods and services to be exempt from VAT but subject to the ability of an EU member state to opt to charge VAT on those supplies
(such as land and certain financial services). Input VAT that is attributable to exempt supplies is not recoverable; although a business can increase its prices so the customer effectively bears the cost of the 'sticking' VAT (the effective rate will be lower than the headline rate and depend on the balance between previously taxed input and labour at the exempt stage).