A judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) concerning the value added tax (VAT) treatment of insurance claims-handling services is expected to have substantial implications for insurance businesses in Belgium.
The CJEU judgment was issued 17 March 2016, and the case identifying information is: Aspiro SA, (C-40/15).
At issue was whether the activity of supplying services for the comprehensive settlement of insurance claims on behalf of an insurer was exempt from VAT. The company acted in the name of and on behalf of the insurer vis-à-vis the insured person and received insurance claims and conducted investigations.
The CJEU concluded that the company did not provide insurance services, nor were its activities similar to insurance intermediation because: (1) the company neither provided the insured party with insurance cover by undertaking itself to cover risks nor was the company in a contractual relationship with the insured party; and (2) the company did not carry out core activities of an insurance agent or insurance broker (i.e., bringing the parties together with a view to the conclusion of insurance contracts). The CJEU found the settlement of insurance claims by a third party acting in the name of and on behalf of an insurance company did not fall within the scope of the exemption for insurance services.
The CJEU’s judgment unambiguously addresses the VAT treatment applicable to claims-handling services rendered by a third-party service provider. The judgment circumscribes the scope of the VAT exemption on insurance services and may have significant consequences for insurers outsourcing their claims-handling services as well as for their third-party suppliers of such services.
In Belgium, contrary to many other EU Member States, administrative guidelines state that claims-handling services rendered by a third-party service provider are in principle VAT-exempt (taxpayers may however choose to tax these services). How the Belgian VAT authorities will react to this judgment and whether they may publish new guidelines remains to be seen.
Insurers and claims-handling service providers may need to anticipate the implications of this case-law and consider what may be appropriate next steps. Nevertheless, until changes are made, Belgian taxpayers can still rely on existing Belgian administrative guidelines that provide for an exemption of claims-handling services provided by a third party.
Read a March 2016 report prepared by the KPMG member firm in Belgium: The ECJ decides on VAT treatment of claims handling services
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