I've just been listening to today's Money Box programme on BBC Radio 4, where Sarah Paine, a UK seller of digital cross-stitch patterns, explained the problems that the new #EU #VAT rules for digital cross-border sales have given her. I entirely sympathise with Sarah - she, like me and many thousands of others across the EU, is a victim of the "unforeseen consequences" as the EU puts it, of the 2015 #VAT rules changes - an issue which the EU VAT ACTION GROUP is campaigning to have amended.
The EU just don't get it!
I was hugely disappointed in the response to Sarah's concerns that was given by the EU spokesperson, Vanessa Mock, Ms Mock said that no-one had objected before the new rules were brought in despite countries having every opportunity to do so (she made no mention of how long ago that was and how the internet marketplace has changed in the intervening 6 years) and the statement that there is a "problem with the UK" thus ignoring the fact that sellers in other EU countries are also adversely affected by this (but have not yet been as vocal as we in the UK are, perhaps!)
Are we waving? No, we are drowning!
The EU, said Ms Mock, will begin a public consultation in September 2015 to see what can be done to put things right. She did not say what EU small digital businesses are meant to do in the intervening months... are we waving? no, we are drowning!
We have to somehow get the message across that it is not just the UK having a moan at Europe!
That EU people keep spouting forth that "you had ample chance to comment and didn't" totally ignores the fact that the EU is speaking to the UK govt. who DO NOT tell UK residents what is in the pipeline so we, as end users, do not have the chance to comment, or point out where there will be problems or insurmountable difficulties in complying with the new requirements.
How do we get our points of view across to the EU mandarins?
This is one of the big problems with applying EU rules to the UK... the lack of consultation and the lack of feedback between UK citizens and the EU. Yes we have #MEPs but they do not seem to tell us anything. I cannot honestly remember seeing or hearing an MEP raise an issue which would affect UK businesses, and that is a parlous state of affairs. If MEPs are supposed to represent us, then we need to have more interaction with them in the same way as we can and do with our domestic MPs. Do MEPs have local surgeries at which folks can raise issues? I have never heard of one in the North West where I live!
So we should tell our MEPs we have a problem, what then?
I emailed all 8 of the NW MEPs on the 17th May 2015 (via the www.writetothem.com website) about the VAT issue, raising my concerns and asking that they raise the matter with the EU as a matter of urgency.
To date I have had the following responses:
Julie Ward MEP - auto-acknowledgement (18th May)
Louise Bours MEP - brief reply saying, "agree that the EU Vat proposals are not beneficial to UK businesses and they will not support them in any vote. Ultimately of course, UKIP would withdraw from the EU and regain control over VAT, via our own Parliament." (18th May)
Afzal Khan MEP - auto-acknowledgement (18th May)
Paul Nuttall MEP - no reply whatsoever!
Sajjad Karim MEP - no reply whatsoever!
Steven Woolfe MEP - no reply whatsoever!
Theresa Griffin MEP - brief reply saying, "Thank you for your email on the changes to VAT. In order to increase efficiency and productivity, the Labour MEPs for the North West have divided the constituency in terms of casework. My colleague Julie Ward has responsibility for Westmorland and Lonsdale. I have spoken to my colleagues in his office and have asked them to look into your case. They will revert to you shortly." (20th May)
Jacqueline Foster MEP - detailed reply from her office as follows, "Thank you for your email.
Conservative MEPs have, this week, again called on the EU and national governments to address some of the devastating problems caused by new rules for VAT collection. Mrs Foster is particularly concerned that the so-called Vatmoss rules are driving small-scale online entrepreneurs out of business by obliging them to collect and process VAT payments, even if they conduct only a tiny amount of overseas trade. A recent survey of 2,000 small companies says a quarter now block overseas sales and a fifth have stopped selling altogether. They are no longer earning money - so authorities are collecting no tax at all. Conservatives agree that the easiest solution is an exemption, a threshold, for small businesses. Tackling Vatmoss requires a unanimous decision by all the EU's finance ministers – but that must happen and happen soon and Conservative MEPs are working with Ministers in the UK Treasury to seek agreement from across the EU." (20th May)
This is a wake up call for the North West's MEP's
It's hardly encouraging, that just three of the eight have bothered to reply! Yet these eight MEPs will no doubt expect me, and others, to vote for them come the next Euro Parliamentary election... but why should I if they cannot even be bothered to listen and respond to legitimate concerns about how the EU's actions is having an adverse effect on my business and the businesses of others like me?
Come on MEPs, do your job and help small businesses out of the #VATMESS that is #VATMOSS by raising the issue within the EU and lobby your colleagues in other countries so we can get a speedy resolution to what is an EU-wide problem, not just us Brits having a moan at the EU again!