Refund of VAT to Finnish businesses from other EU countries

Date of issue
12/19/2013
Validity
In force until further notice

This is an unofficial translation. The official guidance is drafted in Finnish and Swedish languages.

Businesses that are registered for VAT in Finland and that have purchased goods and services for business purposes in other EU countries, may get the input VAT refunded from the country of purchase by filing an application.  A business submits the application for VAT refund to another EU country through the electronic portal maintained by the Finnish Tax Administration: the ALVEU service.

This letter of guidance describes the ALVEU portal, the eligibility for its use, and the types of goods and services that qualify for refunds. It also contains instructions for using the portal.

This letter of guidance has been updated so that it now reflects the established procedure of the electronic application system and the VAT rules that are effective in 2013.

1 VAT refund to foreigners

1.1 Introduction

A Finnish business that acquires goods and services for business purposes in another EU country may get the input VAT refunded from the country of purchase by filing an application.  A business submits the application for VAT refund to another EU country through the electronic portal maintained by the Finnish Tax Administration: the ALVEU service.  Application is completed and submitted through the electronic portal.

The application must be made no later than 9 months after the end of the calendar year following the refund period. No printed-paper application forms are available.

The electronic procedure is based on the rules laid down in the Council Directive 2008/9/EC on Detailed rules for the refund of VAT, provided for in Directive 2006/112/EC, to taxable persons not established in the Member State of refund but established in another Member State. The procedures in different EU countries are almost completely harmonised. Section 156 m of the Value Added Tax Act lays down the Finnish provisions on VAT refund.

More information on completing the application

The Web address of the ALVEU service is tax.fi/alveu. It is a website with interactive features for questions and support requests.

More information on ALVEU and on application procedure is also available at Uusimaa Corporate Tax Office:

Postal address: PO Box 30, 00052 VERO

Telephone: +358 (0)29 497 063
Fax: +358 (0)29 512 6117.

Detailed information on the refund procedure in each EU country is available on their tax authorities' websites. Click here for a list of links (ec.europa.eu).

The EU Commission has published a guide on its website. Click here to download the “Vademecum for the electronic refund procedure to taxable persons not established in the Member State of refund but established in another Member State” (ec.europa.eu). The Vademecum has information on the refund procedures in each EU country.

The Commission website also contains a fact sheet on invoicing rules, VAT rates, and the terms and conditions of the electronic procedure. Click here to access the facts (ec.europa.eu).

Differences in procedures from country to country

Although the procedures are harmonised to a great extent in all EU countries, there are still many country-specific features that are not the same. They may involve the following aspects:

  • Accepted languages and refund currencies
  • Codes used for describing the nature of the goods and services
  • Limitations as to how many applications can be submitted per year
  • Use of a representative or an agent
  • Procedures of attachments, including whether it is required to send invoices as scanned attachment or not.

It is recommended to check the requirements that are in force in the EU country you are dealing with. Use the Vademecum, or visit the websites of tax authorities.

1.2 Who is entitled to use the ALVEU service?

ALVEU is available to businesses registered for VAT in Finland that have purchased goods or services for business purposes in another EU country.  The ALVEU service is designed for businesses to reclaim the input VAT on the goods and services bought in other EU countries. VAT paid in connection with the importation of goods can also be refunded.

Finnish businesses are eligible for refund for goods and services bought in another EU country, and for VAT on imports to another EU country, if the following requirements are met:

  • They are not VAT registered and have no obligation to register for VAT in the country of purchase
  • They do not have a fixed establishment or a place of business in the country of purchase
  • They have not supplied any goods or services, deemed to have been supplied in the country of purchase, with the exception of the following:

    1. The supply of certain VAT exempt transport services and services ancillary thereto, within the meaning of Directive 2006/112/EC, or
    2. The supply of goods and services to a taxable person who is liable for payment of VAT (under the reverse charge scheme).
Businesses that are residents of Åland Islands

If the business is a tax resident of the Åland Islands (in Finnish: Ahvenanmaa), the ALVEU service is not available. The VAT Directive includes definitions of the relevant geographical areas and territories for the purposes of value added tax, and in Article 6, there are certain territorial restrictions and exclusions. For this reason, some regions, including Åland Islands in the case of Finland, may geographically be parts of the Member State, but be defined as non-VAT territories. For purposes of VAT, and from the viewpoint of the European VAT territory, they are in a similar position as non-EU countries. This means that businesses domiciled in the Åland Islands are not entitled to submit a VAT refund application electronically to another EU country.

Instead, a business from Åland can apply for VAT refund from other EU countries using the 13th-Directive (86/560/EC) procedure.  The application form issued by the EU country of refund must be used. A certificate on the VAT liability and the original invoices must be attached to the application. A certificate on the VAT liability can be obtained in the tax office of Åland Islands in Mariehamn.

1.3 Paid VAT that qualifies for refund

The right to refund corresponds to that of businesses liable for VAT in the country of purchase. Input VAT qualifies for refunding if:

  • The purchase concerns the applicant’s business operations in Finland which, if carried out in the EU country of purchase, would be taxable or give the right to refund there
  • The purchase concerns the sales of certain VAT exempt transport services or ancillary services to them by the applicant in the other EU country.
  • The purchase concerns the sales of goods and services by the applicant in the other EU country for which the buyer, instead of the seller, is liable to pay VAT (what is known as reverse charge).

If the company sells goods and services in Finland that are partly taxable and partly nontaxable, it may only receive a refund for the transactions relating to the selling that is taxable.

Example: Company employee has travelled to Sweden. During this business trip, she has participated in some meetings (on the subject of consultancy services) that have to do with a taxable operation, and also in other meetings (on the subject of healthcare services) that have to do with a VAT exempt operation. This requires that her hotel and taxi expenses must be allocated in correct proportions to the taxable and to the exempted activities.

Travel agency services are subject to the VAT margin scheme. For this reason, Finnish travel agents or organisers of trips cannot receive VAT refund for the goods and services that they have bought from other businesses (in EU countries) in their own name, and which are used directly for the benefit of the passengers or travellers.

2 Using ALVEU

2.1 General remarks on the VAT refund procedure

Application for VAT refund must be made within 9 months after the end of the calendar year following the application period.

Example: 'A' arrives in Germany in November 2013 to participate in a seminar. ‘A’ must pay some local expenses (such as the seminar participation fee, the hotel and the taxi). The resulting invoices and receipts that include German VAT are dated for 2013. Conclusion: The deadline for 'A' to submit the application for VAT refund via ALVEU is 30 September 2014.

In connection with the submittal of the application, the Tax Administration will check that the applicant is VAT liable for the VAT period concerned and will communicate the information together with the application to the other EU country. It is no longer necessary to enclose a certificate on the nature of the applicant’s business.

Refund period

At least three consecutive months of the same calendar year is the required minimum length of the refund period. It is recommended that in order to obtain exact instructions, applicants read the guidance issued by the EU country of refund.

Minimum VAT refund

Minimum refund is 50 euros per calendar year. If the application period is a quarter of a year, the minimum is 400 euros. For refunds requested from non-euro zone EU countries, the above minimum amounts must be converted into their national currencies.

Applicants may authorise a representative or agent

For handling the applications, it is permissible for businesses to engage the services of an agent or a representative. This requires that a letter of authorisation must be enclosed, outlining the powers granted to the representative in exact terms. The rules regarding the use of a representative vary from country to country.  It is recommended that in order to obtain exact instructions, applicants read the guidance issued by the country of refund.

Mandatory enclosures

The country of refund may require that the applicant attach scanned invoices to the refund application, if invoice value is €1,000 (ex VAT) or more, or the equivalent in national currency. Where the invoice concerns fuel, the threshold is €250 or equivalent in national currency.

Example:

A Finnish transport company has filled up its truck at fuel stations in Hungary in the course of the calendar year, and asks for VAT refund from Hungary.

Fuel receipt 1: tax basis is HUF 75,000 (some 250 euros).
Fuel receipt 2: tax basis is HUF 60,000 (some 200 euros).
Fuel receipt 3: tax basis is HUF 85,000 (some 290 euros).

Conclusion: the company should scan receipts 1 and 3 as enclosures to the application.

Not all countries require enclosures. For example, Sweden and Austria do not require them.

Applicants must give all the details that are required

An application will be considered to have been submitted only when all the information has been given as stated in Articles 8, 9 and 11, Directive 2008/9/EC, and as required by the EU country of refund. Article 8 lays down the provisions on what details must be given on the applicant and on the invoices. Article 9 lays down the provisions on how purchases must be described (codes). Article 11 lays down the provisions of how to describe the business for which the purchases have been made.

2.2 Signing in to ALVEU

Applicants submit their VAT refund applications through the ALVEU service maintained by the Finnish Tax Administration. To sign in into the service requires Katso ID which is used for identifying business also in other e-services for businesses. A sole trader can alternatively sign in with personal e-banking identifiers or with microchip ID card via the tunnistus.fi website.

For business companies using Katso ID, it is required that the role "VAT Refund Applicant" is active.

Katso secure sign-in is free of charge. If the company does not yet have the required Katso ID it can be set up at the Katso site. Katso site is also where the ID information and authorisations can be managed. For more information on Katso, click here.

Set up a Katso ID or manage your profile (yritys.tunnistus.fi/en).

If the tax authorities in the country of refund accept that an agent is used, the taxable person may authorize the agent to submit the application in the ALVEU service. The authorization is made in the Katso service.  ALVEU is meant and designed as relating to the client (applicant). For this reason, even in case where the agent manages the submittal of the VAT refund application on behalf the taxable person, the taxable person’s contact details, in other words, the taxable person’s email address, street address, postal code and city must be entered in Client information (Step 1). It is not allowed to enter the information on the agent here.

2.3 Submitting a refund application

The Web address of ALVEU service is tax.fi/alveu. The submission of the application in ALVEU service consists of four separate Steps:

Step 1: Client information
Step 2: Basic information on the application

  • Create New
  • Change a previous request

Step 3: Specification of invoices/import documents
Step 4: Submittal.

2.3.1 Step 1: Client information

After signing in, the business ID, company name and country are directly retrieved from the database.

When completing the first application in ALVEU service the following details must be given:

  • e-mail address
  • street address, postal code and city
  • telephone number
  • nature of business: describe it with a NACE code.

Companies should specify their nature of business with the NACE code and hereby explain the purpose for which the goods and services were bought. The NACE is derived from the business sector code, which can be found in the Business Information System, BIS (shared between the National Board of Patents and Registration and the Tax Administration), at its website ytj.fi. You should leave out the last digit from the 5-digit code in BIS.

Example: Company 'A' operates a goods transport business: its business sector code in BIS is 49410. Conclusion: The NACE code is 4941 in this case.

Next time the applicant submits an application, this information is preprinted. The information can be edited if necessary.

2.3.2 Step 2: Basic information on the application - Create New

Towards the end of Step 1 the applicant can select between making corrections to a previously submitted application and creating a new application. If Create New is selected, the following details must be given:

(a) Basic information on the application
  • VAT refund period
  • selection of Country of VAT refund
  • selection of the language for writing any free-text descriptions. ALVEU produces a list of languages accepted by the country of refund.
(b) Description of the business for purpose of which goods and services were purchased

At this stage, the applicant may further specify the nature of its business details given earlier in Step 1, and offer precise information regarding the purposes for which the goods and services were purchased.

Select the most appropriate of the three options under ”We hereby state that during the above mentioned period in the EU country of refund…”:

  • If, during the refund period, your company has not delivered goods or rendered services in the country of refund, tick the first box.  In this case, the invoices are usually hotel invoices, taxi fares and car rental expenses – for example, if an employee of your company has been on a business trip.
  • If your company has only delivered goods, or only rendered services for which the buyer is liable to pay tax, tick the middle box. Then the reverse charge system will apply, and the buyer has the obligation to pay the VAT instead of the seller i.e. instead of you who are the applicant.
  • If your company only has rendered exempt transport services, or services ancillary thereto in the country of refund, tick the last box. Purchases typically consist of fuel for long-distance transport vehicles.
(c) Agent information

The applicant gives these details only if an agent is used and this is accepted by the country of refund. Write the following details:

  • agent's ID
  • type of the ID (VAT number, Tax Identification Number, Other ID)
  • name
  • country
  • telephone number
  • e-mail address
  • street address, postal code and city.

Select VAT number as the Type of the ID if the agent has a Finnish Business ID (Y-tunnus) and is VAT registered in Finland. Select VAT number also if the agent is a foreign company and has a VAT number in its home country. Select Tax Identification Number, TIN, if the agent is a foreign company and has no VAT number in its home country. Select Other ID if the agent has a Finnish Business ID but is not VAT registered in Finland, or if the agent is a private individual.

(d) Bank details in a bank located in an EU country

Give the account details of the bank account to which the VAT refund will be paid:

  • name of the account holder
  • role of the account holder (the applicant’s own bank account, or agent's bank account if the country of refund accepts refund payments to an agent)
  • IBAN account number
  • BIC code of the bank
  • unit of currency

2.3.3 Step 3: Specification of invoices/import documents

Refund application must contain the specified details of the invoices or import documents pertaining to the input VAT to be refunded. Click Add new invoice or Add new import document to see the specification window. This is where you can give the specific details. The system will automatically assigns a sequential number for each invoice or document relating to importation.

Write the following details:

  • invoice number (import document number)
  • invoice date (import document date)
  • use of simplified invoice details – yes or no
  • seller's name, VAT number or TIN, country, street address, postal code, and city
  • description of the category of goods or services purchased (with codes and sub-codes: ALVEU service automatically offers the codes that are appropriate for the selected country of refund)
  • price exclusive of VAT
  • amount of VAT
  • portion, expressed as a percentage, that entitles the applicant to VAT refund (Pro-rata rate in %)
  • requested amount of VAT refund
  • invoice currency.

Invoice number means the seller's invoice number. If the import document does not appear to have any document number on it, the applicant must give a description with the interface language that he has selected).

If it is an invoice with simplified VAT details, select Yes in the appropriate field. Simplified VAT invoice rules vary from country to country, and to find out what they are for the EU country of refund, visit the website of the tax administration of that country or look them up in the Vademecum (for more information, see above, 1.1 Introduction).

Fill in the ”Pro-rata rate in %” to specify the part of your purchase that is directly connected with the VAT deductible operation of your business. If only a part of the purchase was used for deductible transactions, then this will be the only part that entitles to refund. The proportion may be between 0,01−99,99. ALVEU treats a blank space as 100% deductible.

Example: A company sells taxable consultancy services and exempt healthcare services. One of its employees has travelled to Sweden. During this business trip, she has participated in some meetings that have to do with what is taxable (consultancy), and additionally, in other meetings that have to do with what is exempt (healthcare). This requires that her hotel and taxi expenses must be allocated in correct proportions to the taxable and to the exempted activities. The company must allocate each invoice or receipt separately and fill in the ”Prorata rate in %” as appropriate, and enter the appropriate figures as ”Requested amount VAT refund” (= the VAT amount printed on the invoice or receipt × the percentage).
Importing the details from a computer file

ALVEU allows the applicant to upload a computer file and import the details of the invoices or import documents to the application. This requires that the details have been set up in the right order. For more information on accepted orders of details and other instructions, look them up under "More information on ALVEU" (tax.fi/alveu).

The import file must be formatted as a CSV file (*.csv) – this is one of the worksheet formats in Excel software. The maximum quantity of invoices or import documents per one import file is 100. However several attachments can be attached to the application, but the applicant must import each one of them separately. ALVEU will check the data content of each import file, and prompt the applicant to make corrections to them as necessary.

Adding invoices and import documents to the application

When completing the application, the applicant must add the invoices and import documents required by the country of refund as attachments to the application. If an agent submits the application via ALVEU, their letter of authorisation must also be added. Accepted file formats are tiff, jpeg and pdf. The recommended format is pdf.

Maximum total size for all attachments combined is 5MB. If their total combined size is larger than 5MB, please check from the instructions to be followed at the website of the tax administration of the country of refund, or look them up in the Vademecum issued by the Commission.

After all the invoices and import documents have been specified and the file attachments are ready the applicant can move on to Submittal - the final stage.

2.3.4 Step 4: Submittal

ALVEU service creates a summary of the given application details. If something needs to be changed the applicant can still go back and do so. It is recommended that the application is completed carefully: an application will be considered submitted only when it contains all the information, required by the country of refund, concerning the applicant and the invoices.

Click Submit to send the application to the Finnish Tax Administration. If the applicant does not want to send the application yet, the applicant can save it and quit. Then, no information is transferred to the Finnish Tax Administration and the applicant can continue completing the application later.

After submittal, the Tax Administration will send receipt notification on successful reception immediately. Then the Tax Administration forwards the application to the country of refund.

If the taxable person’s VAT liability was not in force during the refund period, the Tax Administration will not forward the application to the country of refund. If such a decision is made, the applicant will be sent a notification by post and electronically via ALVEU. The decision is appealable.

2.3.5 Change a previous request (Step 2: Basic information on the application)

To continue working on an application that has been saved without submitting it, or to change an application that has already been submitted, select "Change a previous request " at the end of Step 1 (Client information). A list appears, showing all the previous applications. Select the one you want to change.

The VAT refund application consists of the specified invoices. For this reason, you cannot add new invoices, or change invoice numbers or dates, to an already submitted application. A new application can be made for forgotten invoices. In this case, the rules on minimum refunds (€50/€400) apply, and so do the rules of the country of refund as to whether several applications for the same period can be accepted.

However, a number of changes to the recorded data in an already submitted application can be made. For example, the applicant can correct the codes that describe the purchases, or correct the amount to be refunded for a certain invoice. It is also possible to delete invoices from an already submitted application.

After making your changes, click ”Go to submittal” and ”Submit” to send the edited version to the country of refund. The authorities of the country of refund will handle the original and the edited application according to their own procedures.

To look for a submitted or saved but not submitted applications, the Search feature accepts the following criteria:

  • refund period
  • country of refund
  • request status (Submitted or Saved as incomplete)
  • request number.

To look for a certain application please enter the start and end dates of the refund period. Another way to restrict your search is to select a certain country from the drop-down list. The Search feature will return all the applications that have been sent to the selected country. Alternatively, you can look for an application by its current status (Submitted or Saved as incomplete) or by its number.

Application for VAT refund must be made within 9 months after the end of the calendar year following the application period. The applicant may notice after the deadline that information is missing or corrections must be made. In this case, ALVEU will allow the applicant to add and correct some details. However, it is up to the authorities of the country of refund to decide whether they take these additions and corrections into consideration.

2.4 Other features of ALVEU

Check the messages regularly

Step 1, Client information, gives access to the Messages. This window contains the notifications on receipt and decisions on applications if the country of refund sends them electronically to the Finnish Tax Administration. Many countries of refund send the notification of receipt and the decision so that it is only to be displayed in the portal in the country of establishment. For this reason, it is recommended to check the Messages from time to time. This ensures that time to lodge an appeal is not lost.

Application may be saved as incomplete

In the bottom part of the window in Step 2 and Step 3, there is a "Save and Quit" button. Click it to save your work if you want to interrupt your session. You can continue completing the application later. When you return to ALVEU service to continue to complete the application, this is how you locate what you had saved:

  • go to Step 1 and click ”Change a previous request”
  • you move on automatically to Step 2: Basic information on the application. A list appears showing all your saved applications. Enter search information such as the country of refund concerned by the application you are working on. The Search feature will return all the applications that you have made to this EU country.
Browse the applications that have been sent off

ALVEU also lets you browse and view already submitted applications. Please be careful that you do not submit or save them as incomplete by mistake. To browse already submitted applications, click “Change a previous request” on the bottom of page, Step 1 – Client information. All the applications submitted to that date will be shown. Click Edit to view the details. Click "Go to specification of invoices/documents" to view invoices recorded in an application. The invoices are listed.

Most of the windows have a Printable Version button for making printouts.

3 Processing of the application in the country of refund

The country of refund receives the refund application and sends a notification of receipt to the applicant.  The way to do this varies from country to country. The tax authority may send the notification of receipt

  • by e-mail, using the e-mail address entered in the application
  • electronically via the Finnish Tax Administration (in this case,  the Tax Authority will place the notification in ALVEU service under Messages)
  • as a paper letter by post.

It is also possible that the tax authority sends an email and also an electronic message in which case there will be two notifications. However, if you do not receive any notification at all, please contact the authority in the refund country.

The processing time is 4−8 months as of the date of arrival of the application in the country of refund. Date of arrival is the date when the country of refund receives the application.

  • The rules require that the authorities of the country of refund must make their decision within four months of the date of arrival if there is no necessity to ask for additional information.
  • The rules require that if they have had to ask the applicant for additional information, the authorities of the country of refund must make their decision within six months of the date of arrival.
  • Similarly, if they have had to ask for additional information more than once, they must make their decision within eight months.

If the above deadlines are not met, the authorities of the country of refund must pay interest on the amount to be refunded.

The rules on appeals against refund decisions require that an applicant wishing to lodge an appeal must submit a written appeal brief (on paper). Appeals cannot be made via ALVEU service. For more information on appeals, contact the authorities of the country of refund. Appeal rules and appeal periods vary from country to country.

4 Frequently asked questions about ALVEU service

Sign-in questions

Question: If the same Katso IDs are shared among several employees, may they be signed in to ALVEU at the same time? Would there be any restrictions or problems?

Answer: Simultaneous sessions with the same IDs are not restricted. However, changes may be made on the applications without all the users being aware of it – which is because more than one employee has the opportunity to work on the same data content. The change that is the most recent will be the one saved.

Questions about authorisations

Question: If there are many agents or representatives who should all be authorised to use ALVEU on behalf of the company, is it OK to give multiple authorisations?

Answer: Yes, companies may grant authorisations to more than just one agent or representative.

Question: If I am the grantor of an authorisation to an agent, do I have the right to browse or view the applications that the agent has submitted on my behalf? As the grantor of authorisation, do I have the right to make changes to such applications?

Answer: Yes, the applications are available to you for browsing and viewing, and you can also introduce changes as necessary. This is because all applications are treated as applicant-specific instead of agent-specific. Under the circumstances, you are the grantor of the authorisation i.e. the applicant, so you have the right to see all the applications that concern you, although it is your agent, not you, who has made them.

Question: Now that my company has given an authorisation to an agent for using ALVEU, can we continue to use it ourselves?

Answer: Yes, companies that have granted authorisations to agents or representatives may continue to use ALVEU themselves, too.

Question: What happens if a company cancels an authorisation? Will all the applications saved as incomplete be lost? If we change our agent by cancelling the current authorisation and granting a new one to a new agent, will the applications saved as incomplete be transferred automatically?

Answer: Even if you cancel the current agent's authorisation, what the agent has saved as incomplete will not disappear. Your new agent will be able to view all the previous applications, because they are treated as applicant-specific instead of agent-specific.

Question: What happens if we cancel the authorisation in the middle of processing of an application? Would our new agent be able to make changes to an application already submitted? Would the refund decision be sent to the old agent because it was he who submitted the application?

Answer: If the cancellation were to happen in the middle of an ongoing process, the decision regarding the VAT refund being requested would be sent to the address recorded on the application. However, under the circumstances, a new agent is able to access any pending applications and make changes to them: the agent can change the details that can be changed.

VAT registration questions

Question: ALVEU performs a check as to whether the applicant's VAT number is valid at the time when they submit an application. This is why there is no requirement to enclose a certificate on the nature of business with the application. What happens if the applicant has had a VAT number that has been valid during the refund period, but that this VAT number is no longer valid at the date of submittal of the application because there has been a merger, business termination or a similar event? May the applicant apply for refund at all in these circumstances?

Answer: ALVEU service checks the applicant's VAT liability during the refund period. This means that in the kind of circumstances that you describe, the applicant may ask for refund.

Question: How can we ask for a VAT refund from another EU country in a case where the purchase was made before the business operation and the VAT registration started? Company accounting system treats this purchase as deductible, because it has to do with the goods of its start-up inventory.

Answer: The important thing with VAT refund is that applicants must be VAT registered and VAT liable during the refund period. If the applicant's liability to VAT is required by law, the applicant can ask the tax authority to change the start date of his registration to an earlier date. If this is done, the company must file Tax Returns for the appropriate taxable period in which the start date is the earlier date. However, if the applicant's liability to VAT is not required by law, in other words, the applicant has asked for VAT registration voluntarily on application, no changes can be made to the start date of his registration (under § 173.2 of VAT Act). Then the applicant cannot apply for a refund.

Questions about the refund period

Question: Towards the end of 2012, my company purchased equipment from Austria. The equipment was sold on to another buyer in Austria. Can my company have a VAT refund retroactively for this transaction?

Answer: Applicants must submit their applications for VAT refund by 30 September the calendar year following the purchase. In this way, because your purchase was made in 2012 your deadline for submittal was 30 September 2013, and refund is no longer permitted.

Question: Can I submit an application immediately after I receive each invoice?

Answer: The three-month minimum length requirement applies to the refund period; your application must concern a period at least this long.

Questions about the application procedure

Question: Is English the language I can use for all countries?

Answer: When you have reached Step 2: “Basic information on the application” you get to select the country of refund. It is at this stage when you see the accepted languages for that particular country.

Question: I am applying for a VAT refund from Germany. Must I enclose the receipts as attachment files? Is there a euro threshold for them?

Answer: Authorities in the country of refund may demand that all fuel receipts for at least €250 (ex VAT) and that all other invoices for at least €1,000 (also ex VAT) be scanned as attachments to the application. The above thresholds are in force in countries outside of the Eurozone, too: they must then be converted into the national currency. Because of the thresholds, not all receipts or invoices have to be attached. There is great variation in the procedures and legal provisions among the EU countries – so it is a good idea to read the guidance issued by the EU country concerned. Guidance is posted on the national websites. If it seems difficult to find it, please contact the tax authorities of the country of refund. The EU Commission has issued the publication “Vademecum for the electronic refund procedure to taxable persons not established in the Member State of refund but established in another Member State” with specific guidance.

Click here for a list of links to national websites (ec.europa.eu).
Click here to download the “Vademecum for the electronic refund procedure to taxable persons not established in the Member State of refund but established in another Member State” (ec.europa.eu).

Question: What if the attachment file is too large?

Answer: In this case you should first check that it does not contain any invoices or receipts that are unnecessary. File size is reduced when you delete the ones you do not need. If this does not help and the size is still too large, please contact the tax authority of the country of refund for how to proceed.

Question: My company has had to pay expenses for crossing the Öresunds bridge between Sweden and Denmark. The VAT amount on receipts is shown in Swedish and Danish crowns (SEK and DKK). Which one of the two countries is the country of refund?

Answer: All VAT refund requests for Öresunds bridge crossings must be sent to Sweden regardless of whether the receipts are from the Swedish or the Danish side.

Question: No notification of receipt has arrived to me from the country of refund: should we be concerned, and is there something we should do?

Answer: To make sure your application has been received, please contact the tax authority of the country of refund directly. However, an alternative solution is to contact the support number in Finland for the ALVEU service, open for enquiries weekdays from 9:00 to 16:15 — tel. 029 497 063.

Question: According to Finnish Tax Administration’s guidance, no invoices can be added to an application that has already been submitted, but you can take invoices away from it. How does one do this? If I delete some invoices from an already submitted application, do I then have to re-submit it again to the country of refund?

Answer: If you want to delete some of the invoice content, here's what to do:

  • Go to Step 1 (Client information) and click ”Change a previous request”.
  • Select the application that has the invoices you want to delete.
  • Move on to Step 3: Specification of invoices/documents. A list appears.Select the invoice you want to delete and click Delete. Answer Yes to the confirmation message. Now you will no longer see the invoice on the list.
  • When you have deleted everything you want you can move on to “Submittal”. A review of your VAT refund application appears. Please go over the review carefully to make sure that the quantity of remaining invoices and the claimed amount of VAT are correct. Click Submit. A message appears: "Finnish Tax Administration has received the information that you have submitted." The Finnish Tax Administration will forward your application to the country of refund.
Question: Can we trust the notification of receipt (written in Finnish) that appears in Messages? Has our application really been received by the country of refund?

Answer: Yes, you can trust the notification.

Question: Why do some of my submittals end with a single notification of receipt in Messages, and others result in confirmation messages by e-mail, and still others end with both types of notifications?

Answer: There is great variation among countries of refund as to what practices they have when they send notifications of receipt. The tax authority can send the notification of receipt

  • by e-mail, using the e-mail address you have entered in the application
  • electronically via the Finnish Tax Administration (in this case,  the Tax Authority will place the notification in ALVEU service under Messages)
  • as a paper letter by post.

Some tax authorities send both e-mail and electronic message. This means that you get two notifications.

Questions about the specification of invoices/documents

Question: The Step 3 on ALVEU service refers to some codes that describes the goods and services that have been bought. Where can I find such codes? Are they different for each country?

Answer: When you are in Step 3, ALVEU shows you a list of appropriate codes, valid in the country concerned.

Question: I am in the process of entering invoice data in Step 3. Whenever I click OK in order to save the data the description of goods and services seems to disappear from the screen. Because of this, an error message appears saying I have saved nothing.

Answer: Did you forget to click the Add button next to the drop-down list? You must click it to enable the save feature, and to save the description of goods and services.

Question: Many invoices are from the same seller company. Does ALVEU not allow the saving of one of them as a template? It would make it easier to enter them instead of having to enter them one by one.

Answer: You can make the entry process faster by setting up a Word template (or other similar software template) that contains the recurring seller details. Then all you have to do is click Copy and Paste to enter them into the invoice specification data. An alternative solution is to save the invoices as Excel worksheets in csv format, and then add them as file attachments (for more information, see section 2.3.3 of this guide).

Question: Can I attach credit notes?

Answer: Yes, credit notes can be added to an application. They should have a minus sign, and you must enter them when you are in Step 3.

Question: What if no suitable code seems to be available on the list?

Answer: The list on the screen for each country of refund have been set up as complete, inclusive of all the codes the country of refund has notified as being in their use. Unfortunately, the Finnish Tax Administration is unable to add or correct such lists. However, if the country of refund accepts it, you can use code '10' (Other) and write a description of invoice in their language.

Question: What if there are many different goods and services included in an invoice? What should I do when I need five different codes instead of just one (after I have keyed in the invoice number and invoice date)?

Answer: Step 3 is where you can create a detailed specification for a particular invoice:

  • First enter the invoice details.
  • Select the codes that match every item on the invoice from the drop-down list in ”Description of goods and services”. Click Add to add the codes one by one.

This means that each invoice number can be specified only once. If you as the applicant try to save each invoice ”line” as a separate new invoice, the country of refund will not process your application.  They will send you an error message with the words ”Duplicate invoice reference number”.

Question: How does one specify receipts with no seller addresses in the case of Sweden as the country of refund? Parking fees are typical examples of such receipts.

Answer: Simplified VAT invoice details are acceptable for certain documents – the seller's address may be missing from them. If your application goes to Sweden, you can simply write ”okänd/unknown” in the address line.

Question: When I type in invoice details for some countries I see an error message saying that 'x.y.z.' format for the code is required in the country concerned. However, only one code is available. This has happened in the case of Sweden and the code '6 Accommodation’. No sub-code is available although the error message says I should have one.

Answer: This error message is merely a remark - it does not cause an interruption. This country of refund utilizes sub-codes that apply to some of its codes. However, you should normally use the sub-codes if they are available for the goods or services you have bought.

Question: Our company has imported goods from Canada to Germany. I have tried to enter the import document details in ”Add new import document”. Germany cannot be found in the list of countries.

Answer: When you enter the details for an import document, you should include the seller's details who in this case is established outside of the European Union (you should not include German customs-office details here).  The country you should select as the country of the seller is Canada.

Question: Even if I change the font size I cannot see all the code explanations.

Answer: Unfortunately, the drop-down list truncates parts of the words in it. However, when you have clicked Add to select the code, you can see the entire explanation text under the drop-down list.

Questions about ALVEU

Question: Is there an interface where I can simply browse my pending applications without making any changes?

Answer: ALVEU is not designed for any other purpose except for submitting the applications. You can sign in to it simply for browsing, but you must then be careful not to accidentally re-send them or not to save them as incomplete. Here's what to do when you want to browse already submitted applications:

  • Go to Step 1 (Client information) and click ”Change a previous request”.
  • A list of all already sent applications appears in a new window. Click Edit to view the details.
  • Click "Go to specification of invoices/documents" to view the attached invoices of your applications. A list of invoices added to that application appears in a new window.