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Tax Analysts




In the beginning, the VAT fraud known as missing trader intra-community (MTIC) fraud appeared to be a UK problem concentrated in the cell phone and computer chip markets. MTIC has mutated (to other commodities) and migrated (to other Member States). This paper describes how this fraud operates in the VoIP market, and how in this mutation it is no longer confined to the EU, but can infiltrate any VAT/GST anywhere.

Canada, Botswana, Japan, Iceland and Jamaica (to mention a few jurisdictions) have consumption taxes that are just as vulnerable as is the EU VAT to VoIP missing trader fraud. It is somewhat problematical that the OECD’s Committee on Fiscal Affairs (Working Party 9 on Consumption Taxes) seems to be adopting rules that would facilitate this fraud as it examines VAT/GST in cross-border trade in services and intangibles.

MTIC is a technology-intensive fraud. The fraud itself can take only minutes. Proceeds then travel with lightning speed through a series domestic and foreign banks (Dubai, India, Hong Kong, Pakistan, China and Russia are common). When a withdrawal is made (in cash) on the other side of the world, the stolen VAT is nearly impossible to recover.

Unlike the EU Commission’s selection of five highly vulnerable MTIC markets (cell phones, computer chips, perfume, precious metals and emissions permits) that are selected for special enforcement measures in COM(2009) 511, this paper presents Dr. Michael Cheetham’s list of forty-one markets of presently active MTIC fraud. VoIP ranks as number 6 on Dr. Cheetham’s list. This paper suggests that the Commission may not be looking at the MTIC problem with both eyes wide open. It is much bigger than it appears to be.

Stripped to essentials MTIC prevention is all about assurance. Where is the assurance that whenever an enterprise purchases supplies for resale with an obligation to perform a reverse charge that it will make and report this charge, and then remit the VAT on an onward sale? The important point is not who should remit the VAT; the important question is how can we be assured that whoever is charged with doing so actually does it?

Technological answers to the problem posed by missing trader fraud in services and intangibles are known and well tested. The measures needed involve certification of automated systems. These are largely administrative measures, but they depend on Member State cooperation, and Commission leadership in the EU, and in the global arena they depend on international cooperating and substantive direction from the OECD.

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