VAT on exports to France


The VAT position when a UK business exports goods to France mainly depends on whether the French customer is registered for French TVA, or is unregistered (for example, a consumer or a very small business). The general position will be looked at, and then some further explanations and exceptions will follow at the end of the page.

It is important to understand that it is the movement of goods that is relevant. A transfer of stock by a business from the UK to a warehouse that it owns in France will normally be classed as an export under these rules, while a delivery of goods by a UK business to the UK warehouse of a French customer will not automatically be classed as an export.

VAT on exports to France when the UK business is VAT-registered and the customer is TVA-registered

A UK business does not usually need to charge VAT on goods exported to France, if it meets 2 conditions:

  1. It obtains a valid TVA registration number for the French customer and shows it (including the FR prefix) on the sales invoice; and
  2. It obtains and keeps documentary proof of export.

If both these conditions are met, the export will be zero-rated. This means that:

  • UK VAT is charged at 0% rather than the sale being completely exempt from VAT. This avoids the need to consider the partial exemption rules.
  • Any compulsory extra charge for shipping, postage or delivery will also be zero-rated.
  • If the business is on the Flat Rate Scheme, it will need to pay UK VAT on the export at the same rate as for its other sales, without being able to charge that VAT to the customer.
  • The value of the export should be included in boxes 6 and 8 of the regular UK VAT return.
  • The value of the export should be included on the EC Sales List and Intrastat return, if these need to be filed.
  • The business can reclaim any UK VAT paid on the goods which it is exporting, subject to the normal rules about reclaiming input VAT.

Unless the goods are involved in further processing in the UK, the time limit for their removal from the UK for zero-rating to apply is 3 months after the time of the supply. During this time, the goods must not be used in the UK.

If any of the conditions is not met, UK VAT must usually be charged at the rate applicable to a normal sale in the UK. However, no VAT is chargeable on goods which would normally be zero-rated or exempt when supplied in the UK (for example, books, children’s clothing and some food items).

VAT on exports to France when the UK business is VAT-registered but the customer is not registered for TVA

UK VAT must usually be charged at the rate applicable to a normal sale in the UK. However, no VAT is chargeable on goods which would normally be zero-rated or exempt when supplied in the UK. UK VAT must also be added to any compulsory charge for shipping, postage or delivery at the same rate as the items in the shipment.

VAT on exports to France when the UK business is not VAT-registered

If the UK business is not VAT-registered, it follows that VAT does not need to be charged. The business does not need to include the value of any exports (to France or anywhere else outside the UK) when determining whether it is obliged to register for VAT in the UK due to exceeding the UK turnover threshold.

Distance selling to France

A UK business exporting to France should regularly check whether its level of sales to TVA-unregistered customers in France requires it to register for TVA under the distance selling rules. Broadly, these require a UK business to register for TVA, and then charge TVA instead of UK VAT, if its sales of goods to customers in France who are not registered for TVA are over €100,000 in a calendar year. Such a registration is also optional at lower levels of sales, but as rates of French TVA are typically higher than the UK VAT equivalent, this is unlikely to be favourable.

Terminology

Strictly, for VAT purposes the movement of goods from the UK to France are not called exports, but are instead called dispatches or removals from the UK. The term exports is reserved for the movement of goods to places outside the EC. However, to avoid technical jargon and to make the information more accessible, this website uses the term exports for the movement of goods from the UK to France.

Special rules for exporting goods to France

Different rules may apply in certain less-common situations:

Transfers of own goods from UK to France;
Installing or assembling goods in France;
Goods sent to France for process, repair etc;
Goods receiving a service in the UK before being exported;
Triangular business transactions;
New means of transport;
Supplies to privileged persons in France;
Call-off stocks;
Consignment stocks or goods sent on approval;
Excise goods;
Samples and goods sent for testing;
Goods lost, destroyed or stolen;
Mobile telephones and computer chips;
Gas and electricity;
Freight containers;
Supplies on board ships, aircraft and planes.