Pursuant to the Serbian Value Added Tax Act1 (hereinafter ‘the VAT Act’), taxable persons who are not established in Serbia are entitled to obtain a VAT refund if they have purchased movable goods and services subject to the condition that:
- VAT was entered on an invoice drawn up in accordance with the VAT Act and the invoice was paid;
- The requested refund of VAT exceeds EUR 200 in RSD equivalent calculated according to the average exchange rate of the National Bank of Serbia valid on the day of the submission of the VAT refund request;
- The conditions, under which a taxable person established in Serbia has the right to deduct the VAT on supply on such movable goods and services, are met;
- A taxable person established outside of Serbia carries out in Serbia only transport of goods exempted from VAT (transport relative to import of goods, transport relative to free trade zones, transport relative to export of goods) or international passenger bus transport subject to VAT on the section carried out in Serbia, and no other taxable activities;
- There is reciprocity between Serbia and the state of establishment of the foreign taxable person.
The reciprocity currently exists between Serbia and the following countries:
- The Netherlands
- Croatia (partially- only on movable goods and services purchased in connection with fairs)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- FYR Macedonia
- The UK.
Accordingly, every taxable person established in one of the above listed countries, can apply for the refund of VAT in Serbia.
The VAT refund request is submitted once a year for the previous year. That means that the VAT refund request for the year 2014 must be submitted not later than June 30, 2015.
Along with the VAT refund request, the following documentation must be submitted in accordance with the Protocol on the procedure for the VAT refund2 (hereinafter ‘the Protocol’):
- The certificate of VAT registration or registration for another form of consumption tax, issued by the tax authority of the state where the taxable person is established (original and certified translation into Serbian);
- Originals and copies of paid invoices for purchased movable goods and services, based on which the VAT was calculated and paid.
Please note that in practice, the Serbian Tax Administration regularly requests additional documentation not listed in the VAT Act and the Protocol.
Upon receipt of the VAT refund request, the Tax Administration shall examine whether the conditions for the VAT refund are met, issues a decision within 30 days from the receipt of the request and send it to the taxable person along with the original invoices. The VAT is refunded within 15 days from the receipt of the decision by the taxable person.
VAT is refunded in the currency of the state where the taxable person is established by converting the RSD amount of the refund into the foreign currency according to the selling exchange rate of the National Bank of Serbia valid on the day of the refund. The conversion expenses are deducted from the refunded VAT. The refund can be paid to the account of the taxable person in Serbia and abroad.
Our practical experience with VAT refund for 2013 reveals that the acting inspectors request more paper work than prescribed by the VAT Act and the Protocol, and that the VAT refund procedure regularly lasts more than the prescribed 30 days, especially when the requests are submitted close to the deadline for the submission. In addition, acting inspectors tend to interpret the VAT Act and the Protocol somewhat ambiguous, which may result in lower VAT refund than requested. Therefore, we suggest that the requests for the refund of VAT for the year 2014 are submitted ASAP and that a local tax representative is appointed, who will support the taxable person in the negotiations with the Tax Administration.