EU VAT change pushes up broadband prices

Link: Government to appoint broadband director

The first ISP to announce an increase is fairADSL, which was previously been exempt from paying VAT to the UK government because it could claim its services were based in the US

It said today that because of the EU directive, it now has to pay full UK VAT at 17.5% and will have to pass on this cost to its customers.

The directive, which came into effect on 1 July, requires all suppliers of digital services from outside the EU to pay VAT on sales inside EU member states.

But fairADSL, which is now based in the UK, is not the only ISP that has been able to benefit from VAT exemption.

AOL has also been exempt until now because of an agreement with Customs and Excise.

This allowed AOL to be treated as a supplier of digital content rather than an ISP delivering internet access, which would have brought them within UK VAT rules.

Freeserve challenged the legality of AOL’s agreement with Customs based on European case law and began lobbying the European Commission and the UK Treasury some 18 months ago to remove the discrepancy, which it claimed, was distorting competition in the UK.

But AOL will not have to pay UK VAT as it set up a new business unit in Luxembourg – which has one of the lowest rates of VAT in Europe at 15%.

A spokesman for AOL said it had no plans to pass on the price rise to customers as it planned to absorb the extra costs.

Patrick O’Neill, fairADSL’s communications director said its rise cost around £1 per month and it will only affect new customers from the end of August.

Existing customers can continue to receive broadband for £18.99 a month price if they renew their contracts for another year before 30 July.

‘We were one of the few ISPs who passed the benefit on to our customers [of not paying VAT] and there are some who have registered their business units to places such as Madeira in Spain or Luxembourg as the rate of tax is lower,’ said O’Neill.

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