Handling VAT in the EU as a creator

When you sell independently digital products on the Internet you have a big problem.

I’m talking about digital products, because physical products are another set of problems.

Oh I’m saying that from the perspective of being a European citizen, paying taxes in the EU, and in particular in Italy (but I know the same principles apply to all EU countries).

When you sell a digital good (aka distance selling), over the 10k€ threshold you have to collect the correct VAT for the person.

The VAT amount depends on the country and factors like “is this a consumer or is this a business”. It’s impossible you know the correct amount and stay up to date with changes, so you have to use a 3rd part provider for this data, like Quaderno and others.

But then you have to remit this VAT to each country you collected on behalf of.

If you have lots of sales to different countries, it starts to become a problem.

There’s no way I can do that ON TOP of the work I already do to make the sales in the first place.

And this is just the EU. Any country in the world has its own rules. Do I know which amount of sales tax I have to apply to a specific US state? And what about the new tax introduced in New Zealand (just making things up).

It’s a NIGHTMARE.

Some people say “get an accountant”. Like I don’t already have one.

In the EU, well in Italy at least, the country I know, it’s impossible to do any kind of business without an accountant, unless you want to run into troubles. Too many rules, too many different things to pay, then the deadlines change all the time, rules are changed year to year (seriously, it’s a mess).

Without an accountant you have to become one.

Something I don’t want to do.

And, it’s not like the accountant works for free. Additional work put on their shoulders is work you have to pay for.

So.. how do I handle VAT as a creator on the Internet? I don’t.

I use a merchants of records.

A merchants of records is a company that does all the above for you, for a small fee.

Paddle, Gumroad, Fastspring are 3 I know and I’ve used in the past. They handle it all for you, and they send you a payment once a week or month, depending on how you set them up.

The percentage they take is often a very well worth compromise with your time and energy.

If the customer requires an invoice, they make the invoice for you. If the customer requires a refund, you don’t have to do anything else than pressing a button.

If country X changes their tax rules, they worry about it. You don’t.

If they mess something up, they are the ones at fault, not you.

You just have to worry with your fiscal relationship with that company, not with the hundreds or hopefully thousands of customers.

I honestly have no idea how people in the EU can use any other form of payment including PayPal and Stripe, and this limitation prevents me to use 99% of the apps that are typically made in the US and they don’t care. Like Substack, Podia, Revue, and many others.

I know Teachable is another one that serves as merchants of records, too. All the others just send you each customer payment to you.

And it’s not a good thing, not for a small, indie creator that doesn’t want to care about all this mess.

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