How to account for VAT when buying from abroad

How to account for VAT when buying from abroad

By Tracey Glacken, Glacken Accountants

Business owners usually have lots of questions to pose to their accountant when deciding whether to purchase from within Ireland or abroad. This article sets out what to do if you buying from abroad.

EU Intra Community Acquisitions

If you are VAT registered in Ireland you can buy goods VAT free from another business in the EU once these goods are for the purpose of your business. This is known as an EU intra community acquisition. The steps to be taken are as follows:

(1)    Provide the supplier with your VAT number. They have to check that this is a valid VAT number. Once this is confirmed the supply will be made at a zero VAT rate in the country of supply.

(2)    You become liable for the VAT on acquisition in Ireland. What this means is that you must account for it as a VAT on Sale (in the T1 section of the VAT return) at the rate of VAT you would sell the goods at.

(3)    You are entitled to claim an input credit for the same amount in the VAT on Purchases on the VAT return (Box T2) This gives a NIL liability on the VAT return.

(4)    When these goods are sold on, any future VAT on Sales must be accounted for in the normal way in your VAT return.


A business purchases stock from the U.K. for €20,000. The supply is zero rated in the U.K. The Irish trader must account for VAT on the acquisition in Box T1 on the VAT return at €20,000 @ 23% = €4,600. They also have an input credit in Box T2 on the return of €20,000 @ 23% = €4,600. The goods are sold in the same period for €30,000 plus VAT @ 23% therefore the VAT on Sale will be €6,900. The total liability due by the trader in the relevant period will be €6,900.

The main advantage of buying from within the E.U. would be for cash flow purposes i.e. no VAT to be paid at time of purchase compared to Ireland and price may be more favourable than Irish prices.

Traders acquiring more than €191,000 worth of goods per annum from other Member States are also obliged to submit a periodic INTRASTAT return.


If you are importing from outside of the E.U. then a different process applies. VAT on the Import must be accounted for in the normal way and there is generally no exemption from VAT.  Customs will charge the VAT and customs duties before the goods are released to you. Any VAT charged can be reclaimed in your next VAT return.  If the goods are imported into Ireland with the intention of forwarding them onto another intra E.U. state then no VAT will be charged, provided these goods do not enter circularisation in Ireland.

Other examples of VAT free imports include:

(1)    Where goods imported are placed in a free zone e.g. Shannon or Ringasakiddy

(2)    Where goods are imported for a temporary period (up to a maximum of 24 months)

(3)    Goods imported for personal or household use when residence is changed

(4)    Wedding presents imported up to a value of €1,000 where residence is changed upon marriage

(5)    Goods imported within the regulations of personal luggage allowances.

This is only a brief guide to importing from abroad and advice should always be sought when considering importing from outside or inside the E.U. Further information may be obtained from Revenue Commissioners website.

Tracey Glacken

Owner at Glacken Accountants

Tracey Glacken is owner at Glacken Accountants. Glacken Accountants work with SME’s in the areas of audit, financial statements preparation, personal and company taxation, company secretarial and business planning.

Tracey is a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland and has worked for over 13 years in practice. Tracey has advised clients in many different sectors from small start-up business to medium sized companies and has extensive experience in statutory audit, financial and management reporting.


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  • Nicety Sales

    I am planning to start an online business for customers in UK & Ireland. If an item that I listed is sold I will ask my supplier who is based in HK to directly ship item to the buyer (drop-ship model), then who will be liable to pay VAT & Customs? Buyer or Me as a seller?

    What VAT thresholds needs to be considered here to register for VAT?

    If I cross VAT threshold, should I register for VAT? and how much VAT should I pay?

    Note: VAT & Import duties will be paid by the end customer to the courier company upon receipt. In this case should I maintain the record of how much VAT & duties are paid by customer?

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