Options for taxing financial supplies in value added tax: EU VAT and Australian GST models compared


The taxation of financial services is one of the most vexing aspects of a Value Added Tax (VAT). Conceptually, VAT should apply to any fee for service but where financial services are concerned there is a difficulty in identifying the taxable amount, ie the value added by financial institutions. As a result, most jurisdictions, including the EU, simply exempt financial services from VAT. Treating financial services as exempt, however, gives rise to significant legal and economic distortions. Consequently, a few countries have in recent years attempted an alternative VAT approach to financial services. Amongst these is Australia, which in 2000 introduced a Goods and Services Tax (GST) with a ‘reduced input tax credit’ system. This paper compares the current treatment of financial supplies, under a VAT-type system, in the EU and in Australia. The aim is to ascertain whether the Australian GST treatment of financial services is, as commonly thought, superior to the EU one, and consequently, whether introducing an Australian-type model should constitute a policy consideration for the EU.