Tax & Accounting Blog

Report: High VAT Rate Factor in Belgium E-Commerce Lag

Blog, Indirect Tax, Reuters Business News, Reuters Tax & Accounting News July 10, 2014

On 3 July 2014 the digital consulting group Wijs published a report on the state of e-commerce in Belgium entitled “Belgium, e-commerce’s Bermuda triangle.” E-commerce makes up just 3% of the the total retail sector in Belgium (compared with 5% in the EU as a whole), and the country has a lower percentage of “frequent online shoppers” and a greater percentage of “non-online shoppers” than immediately neighboring EU Member States as follows:

  • UK 71% frequent on-line shopper, 3% non-online shopper
  • Germany 62% frequent on-line shopper, 3% non-online shopper
  • France 53% frequent on-line shopper, 7% non-online shopper
  • Netherlands 42% frequent on-line shopper, 12% non-online shopper
  • Belgium 30% frequent on-line shopper, 19% non-online shopper

Belgium’s lagging e-commerce situation is in stark contrast to neighboring countries, which account for 72% of European e-commerce. Furthermore, Belgium’s central geographical location in Europe (Flanders in particular, where 60% of Europe’s purchasing power lies within around 300 miles) , central political position within the EU, and history of experience in export would seem to predict a stronger sector in the country.

A further area of concern for Belgian e-commerce is the relatively high percentage of cross-border purchases and the low percentage of domestic purchases online by those with home internet access. Particularly with regard to the largest neighboring economies, Belgium is at a VAT disadvantage, Belgium’s 21% standard rate is higher than the UK’s 20%, Germany’s 19%, and France’s 20%.

  • UK 70% bought domestic, 15% bought cross-border
  • Germany 70% bought domestic, 13% bought cross-border
  • France 58% bought domestic, 21% bought cross-border
  • Netherlands 75% bought domestic, 16% bought cross-border
  • Belgium 35% bought domestic, 33% bought cross-border