Are receipts when selling online services obligatory?

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The sale of goods or services to natural persons who do not conduct business activity necessitates documenting such a sale with a fiscal receipt. The situation when the service is performed stationary does not raise any major doubts. However, do the same rules apply to the sale of online services? Should also receipts be issued when selling online services?

Fiscal receipts

According to Art. 111 sec. 1 of the VAT Act, taxpayers selling to natural persons who do not conduct business activity and flat-rate farmers are required to keep records of turnover and amounts of tax due using cash registers.

However, pursuant to § 3 para.1 of the Regulation on cash registers, taxpayers keep records of each sale activity, including tax-exempt sales, using cash registers that were acquired during the validity period of the confirmation that the cash register meets the functions and technical requirements (criteria and technical conditions) for cash registers, only in accordance with fiscal work of this cash register, after its fiscalisation. Moreover, as indicated in § 6 sec. 1 point 1 of this regulation, taxpayers, keeping records, issue and issue to the buyer, without his request, a fiscal receipt when making the sale, no later than upon the receipt of the amount due, regardless of the form of payment.

Thus, as can be seen from the provisions presented, sales including both the supply of goods and the provision of services, made to natural persons who are consumers, make it necessary for the taxpayer to record this event at the cash register, and then to issue a fiscal receipt.

Waiver of the obligation to issue receipts

However, it should be noted that pursuant to Art. 111 sec. 8 of the VAT Act, the minister of finance has the right to define special cases when it is not necessary to have a cash register.

Pursuant to the above provision, the Ordinance of the Minister of Finance on exemptions from the obligation to keep records with the use of cash registers was issued, which provides for certain circumstances allowing for the resignation of the cash register.

Pursuant to § 2 of this regulation, the activities listed in the annex to the regulation are released from the obligation to record in a given tax year, but not longer than until December 31, 2021. For certain activities listed in the Annex to the Regulation, the exemption applies under the conditions set out in that Annex.

If, however, we refer to the aforementioned appendix, then in item 37 we can find a provision according to which the provision of services to natural persons who do not conduct business activity and flat-rate farmers is exempt from the obligation to register at the cash desk, if the payment for the activity was made in full via the post office, bank or cooperative savings and credit union (respectively to the account the taxpayer's bank account or on the taxpayer's account in the cooperative savings and credit union of which he is a member), and from the records and evidence documenting the payment it is clear what specific activity it concerned.

Consequently, in order for the online service to exercise the right to be exempted from the obligation to record turnover using a cash register, the following conditions must be met:

  • payment for the service must be made in full by mail or bank to the taxpayer's bank account;
  • from the records and evidence documenting the payment, it is clear what specific activity was related to;
  • the subject of the service are not the services listed in § 4 of the Regulation.

Admittedly, Art. 106b paragraph. 1 point 1 of the VAT Act shows that the taxpayer is obliged to issue an invoice documenting the sale made by him to another taxpayer of tax, value added tax or a tax of a similar nature or to a legal person who is not a taxpayer, but this obligation applies only to sales to another entrepreneur. Remember, however, that there are no obstacles for the taxpayer to voluntarily issue an invoice to the consumer. This is not an activity prohibited by law.

Similarly, the service may be documented with an account referred to in Art. 87 § 1 of the Tax Ordinance, which indicates that if separate provisions do not impose an obligation to issue an invoice, taxpayers conducting business activities are obliged, at the request of the buyer or service recipient, to issue an invoice confirming the sale or provision of a service.

On the other hand, a bank account statement may be considered a proof of payment. It is important here that a given operation is assigned to a specific service. Therefore, it is best for the buyer to enter the invoice or bill number in the title of the transfer. Such action will allow for an unambiguous assignment of a specific payment to a specific service.

Example 1.

The taxpayer provides brokerage services in the field of online commerce. Everything is done online. After the service has been performed, the taxpayer issues an invoice to the customer documenting the service performance. The buyer always pays by bank transfer, indicating in the text what exactly the payment was related to. Under these conditions, the taxpayer does not have to register the service provided at the cash register, which is tantamount to the lack of the obligation to issue a receipt. Under certain conditions provided for in the annex to the regulation on exemptions from the obligation to have a cash register, the taxpayer does not have to issue receipts for online services.

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Receipts for online sales of tax advisory services and legal advisory services

In the previous section, we indicated that the exemption analyzed by us does not apply to the sale specified in § 4 of the Regulation. On the other hand, according to paragraph 1 point 2 of this paragraph, the exemption does not apply to the provision of services:

  • legal services, with the exception of the services specified in item 27 of the annex to the regulation (Real estate services, if the provision of these services is fully documented by an invoice);
  • tax consultancy.

Does the above mean that such online services require sending a receipt to the customer each time? Such a situation would be very embarrassing. If the lawyer gives advice over the phone or prepares an answer to the presented problem and sends it by e-mail, he would additionally have to send the client a receipt by post.

Fortunately, such an abstract situation can be avoided. In the light of § 4 sec. 3 point 2 of the Regulation, the provisions of para. 1 point 2 shall not apply to the provision of legal services and tax consultancy, if the provision of these services in accordance with the conditions set out in item 37 of the Annex to the Regulation takes place only with the use of means of distance communication or the result of which is communicated only through the use of these means.

As a consequence, the provision of legal services and online tax consultancy by means of distance communication, such as telephone, e-mail, social messengers (eg Skype), gives the possibility of taking advantage of the exemption from the obligation to have a cash register. However, it should be emphasized that the conditions already discussed in item 37 of the Annex to the Regulation.

Example 2.

A tax advisor living in Warsaw provided legal advice over the phone to a natural person living in Krakow. The client made a transfer for him for the service provided, entering the following text: "Fee for tax advice of 12/11/2019". Under these conditions, this service is exempt from the need to issue a receipt. Persons providing legal services and online tax consultancy can benefit from the exemption from the obligation to have a cash register and the need to issue receipts. Summarizing our findings, it should be noted that, in principle, receipts for the sale of online services to natural persons who do not conduct business activity make it necessary to record the sale at the cash register. However, it should be remembered that under certain conditions related to the form of payment and appropriate documentation, the taxpayer may be released from this obligation.