E-Commerce, Newsroom, VAT | 20. July 2023

Amazon Prime Day breaks records

Welcome to the Commerce Update, where we bring you the latest and most impactful news from the world of commerce. In this issue, we delve into the record-breaking success of Amazon’s Prime Day, explore the debate surrounding reusable packaging, and navigate the complex maze of global e-invoicing compliance. We’ll also look at France’s innovative green move to subsidise clothing repairs and discuss the implications of the new VAT rates introduced in Switzerland and Cyprus. Stay tuned as we unpack these developments’ significance in the ever-evolving commercial landscape. by

Amazon enjoyed enormous success at this year’s Prime Day despite the ongoing economic crisis, reports WirtschaftsWoche in an interview with Rocco Bräuniger, the company’s head of Germany. Bräuniger emphasised that Prime Day was the most successful shopping day in Amazon’s history, and the two-day event overall the most successful ever. Products from the technology sector, such as Apple AirPods and other earbuds, were particularly in demand. Still, insect bites healers and dishwasher tabs were also among the bestsellers.

Despite the difficult situation in online retail, Amazon maintains an optimistic stance. Bräuniger explained that the company is observing rising demand in some product segments, especially furniture and electrical appliances. Customers would increasingly demand more expensive brand products and sustainable goods. Bräuniger also stressed that Amazon felt pressure from low-cost Chinese retailers such as Shein and Temu, but that the online business in Germany was still growing.

To continue improving the customer experience, Amazon is investing heavily in logistics and continuously expanding its logistics network. He said that although projects for new warehouses have been halted in some countries, investments in logistics expansion continue in Germany. Bräuniger emphasised that a dense network helps to shorten delivery times.

In terms of sustainability, Amazon has announced great efforts. The company has ordered 300 new electric delivery vans from the US start-up Rivian. It plans to make its transport network in Europe CO₂-neutral by 2040. He said the current electric vehicles are just the beginning, as Amazon plans to invest over a billion euros in the electrification of its European transport network over the coming years. He said using electric cargo bikes and micro hubs in European cities is essential to introducing more sustainable delivery methods.

Bräuniger concluded by emphasising that the issue of sustainability is a high priority for Amazon. The demand for more sustainable products and deliveries is growing, and the company will meet this trend. Amazon plans to work with cities and municipalities to expand zero-emission delivery further.

E-Invoicing: Navigating the Global Compliance Maze

Multinational corporations are in a complex maze of e-invoicing and Continuous Transaction Control (CTC) compliance in a world where digitalisation is rapidly transforming every sector. This is the key finding of a special report by Thomson Reuters, which delves into the intricacies of adhering to real-time reporting regulations across the globe.

Governments worldwide are increasingly moving towards digital tax systems, necessitating real-time data reporting and unique e-invoicing requirements. This shift has significantly burdened companies to revamp their invoicing processes, establish connections with government networks, and ensure their invoices are compatible with the new requirements. Moreover, they must achieve this while integrating with existing financial systems and keeping pace with the ever-evolving regulations.

The report highlights the need for a standard global format for e-invoices, further complicating the situation. As a result, companies are forced to devise individual solutions for each country they operate in, increasing complexity and cost exponentially.

New VAT Rates in Switzerland from 2024

Switzerland is set to increase its Value Added Tax (VAT) rates from 1 January 2024, which will significantly impact businesses in the country. The changes, revealed by WTS Global, include a rise in the standard rate from 7.7% to 8.1%, an increase in the reduced tax rate from 2.5% to 2.6%, and a hike in the special rate for accommodation services from 3.7% to 3.8%.

The Federal Tax Administration (FTA) has published guidelines to help businesses navigate the tax rate increase. These cover a range of scenarios, including determining the applicable tax rate, handling partial payments and invoices, dealing with advance payments, managing cross-period supplies, addressing price reductions and sales bonuses, and settling with the FTA.

The changes will require businesses to adjust their VAT calculations and liabilities. Companies must stay updated to ensure compliance and competitiveness as tax systems digitalise.

Reusable packaging: Curse or blessing?

A new study commissioned by the Verband der Wellpappen-Industrie e.V. (VDW) examines the impact of the draft EU Packaging Directive on the corrugated packaging market. The directive provides for mandatory reusable shares for transport packaging. This requirement could have far-reaching effects on the industry.

In 2021, 4.3 million tonnes of corrugated transport packaging were produced in Germany. If the draft EU Packaging Directive is implemented in its current form, the volume of corrugated packaging could be reduced by 139,000 tonnes to 4,163,000 tonnes by 2030. At the same time, 114,000 tonnes of reusable packaging could be produced annually.

The study indicates that switching to reusable transport packaging would require significant changes along the entire value chain. These include an increasing need for storage space and additional journeys, which could add up to 0.2 billion truck kilometres.

Introducing a reusable system would also require significant investments, especially in logistics centres and cleaning and processing facilities. This is offset by possible deinvestments in corrugated cardboard plants and PPK recycling plants.

Another problem is the variety of transport packaging. The study argues that the current diversity of variants hinders the efficient use of reusable transport packaging, and that presenting this diversity in reusable packaging would make neither economic nor ecological sense.

The study concludes that the ratio of costs and benefits of implementing the reusable target quotas is imbalanced. While the benefits are comparatively low, the costs are high. Nevertheless, the study emphasises that reusable packaging can sometimes make sense, especially for highly standardised transport packaging.

The study underlines the need for careful consideration and planning when implementing the EU Packaging Directive and the associated reusable requirements. It remains to be seen how the industry will respond to these challenges.

France’s Green Move: Subsidies for Clothing Repairs

France has announced a new initiative to subsidise clothing and shoe repairs to reduce waste and the textile industry’s environmental impact. The scheme, revealed by the French Secretary of State for Ecology, Bérangère Couillard, will offer discounts of €6 ($7) to €25 ($28) for repairs, depending on their complexity, reports CNN.

The initiative promotes a circular economy for shoes and textiles, encouraging consumers to repair rather than discard items. The scheme will be managed by a private organisation, Refashion, and is set to launch in October.

The move comes as the textile industry will account for a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It follows a similar French scheme for white goods, underscoring France’s commitment to reducing waste and promoting sustainability.

New 3% VAT Rate Introduced in Cyprus

Cyprus has introduced a super-reduced 3% value-added tax (VAT) rate and expanded the list of goods eligible for 0% VAT in a move designed to support individuals with disabilities. The changes, enacted on 13 July 2023, include a variety of goods and services aimed at assisting those with disabilities, reports EY.

New additions to the 0% VAT list include Braille typewriters, special electronic typewriters, and vehicles designed for personal use by people with disabilities. The 3% VAT rate applies to books, newspapers, periodicals, specific medical devices, and services such as private waste collection and debut performances of theatrical, musical, dance or classical plays.

Businesses are expected to adapt to these changes to promote accessibility and ease financial burdens for people with disabilities in Cyprus.

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