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Study to quantify and analyse the VAT Gap in the EU Member States. 2015 Report

This report provides estimates of the VAT Gap for 26 EU Member States for 2013, as well as revised estimates for the period 2009-2012. It is a follow-up to the report “Study to quantify and analyse the VAT Gap in the EU-27 Member Statess, published in September 2013 (hereafter: 2013 Report), and to the report “2012 Update Report to the Study to Quantify and Analyse the VAT Gap in the EU-27 Member States” , published in October 2014 (hereafter: 2014 Report). As in previous reports, it was not possible to include estimates for Croatia and Cyprus, due to as-yet-incomplete national account statistics for the two countries.

The VAT Gap is an indicator of the effectiveness of VAT enforcement and compliance measures, as it provides an estimate of revenue loss due to fraud and evasion, tax avoidance, bankruptcies, financial insolvencies as well as miscalculations. As the VAT Gap in this study is based on a top-down approach, it does not readily lend itself to be deconstructed according to industrial sectors or other criteria (territorial, professional), and can be best used as a diagnostic tool in the context of its evolution over time. 

As discussed in previous reports, the VAT Gap is defined as the difference between the amount of VAT actually collected and the VAT Total Tax Liability (VTTL), in absolute or percentage terms. The VTTL is an estimated amount of VAT that is theoretically collectable based on the VAT legislation and ancillary regulations. This report calculates, for each country the VTTL on the basis of national accounts, by mapping information on standard, reduced rates and exemptions onto data available on final and intermediate consumption, as well as gross fixed capital formation, from national accounts and use tables. Thus, the quality of the VAT Gap estimates depends on the accuracy and completeness of national accounts data and use tables.

The year 2013 saw a continuing overall unfavourable economic environment, as the GDP of the European Union was nearly stagnant.  This contributed to a slowdown of nominal final consumption and of other economic aggregates that form the basis of the Value Added Tax. 

Six countries applied changes to standard or reduced rates in 2013, marking a relatively stable policy environment.

During 2013, the overall VAT Total Tax Liability (VTTL) for the EU-26 Member States grew by about 1.2 percent, while collected VAT revenues rose by 1.1 percent. As a result, the overall VAT Gap in the EU-26 saw an increase in absolute values of about Euro 2.8 billion, to reach Euro 168 billion. As a percentage, the overall VAT Gap stayed constant at 15.2 percent. The median VAT Gap rose by 1.6 percentage point, to reach 13.9 percent.

In 2013, Member States’ estimated VAT Gaps ranged from the low of 4 percent in Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden, to the high of 41 percent in Romania. Overall, 15 Member States decreased their VAT Gap, with the largest improvements noted in Latvia, Malta and Slovakia.  11 Member States saw an increase in the VAT Gap, generally of small magnitudes, with the largest deteriorations in Estonia and Italy.  

This report also provides new and expanded evidence on the Policy Gap for the EU-26.  The Policy Gap is an indicator of the additional VAT revenue that a Member State could theoretically collect if it applied standard rate to all consumption of goods and services supplied for consideration.  We provide here estimates of the Policy Gap adjusted to take into account items that could not easily be taxed even in an “ideal” system (imputed rents, public goods, financial services).  The results moderate views of the relative importance of reduced rates and exemptions in reducing the revenue potential of VAT, and suggest that better enforcement remains a key component of any strategy of improvement of the VAT system.

The results of this report and the underlying data were presented to Member States in advance of publication and discussed on several occasions with the representatives of Member States. Deviating approaches and views of Member States are noted in the relevant country section in Chapter 3. The authors are grateful for the constructive cooperation and helpful input of Member States.