Temporary exemption of import VAT on personal protective equipment and VAT zero rate domestic supply of face masks


Temporary exemption of import VAT on personal protective equipment and VAT zero rate domestic supply of face masks

After announcing a change to the VAT regulations to introduce a temporary VAT zero rate on all domestic supplies of face masks the Dutch government also confirmed the temporary exemption of import VAT on face masks (and other) personal protective equipment.

18 May 2020

Domestic supply of face masks

The State Secretary of Finance explains in a letter that the supply of face masks is currently subject to the general VAT rate of 21%. The temporary VAT zero rate will apply to all supplies of face masks and comes into effect from 25 May to 1 September 2020. Not only face masks to be used in public transport, but also medical grade face masks, regardless to whom they are supplied.

The reason for the measure is that as of 1 June 2020 it will be mandatory to wear a non-medical face mask in public transport. As of that date more people are expected to make use of buses, trains and trams, whereas it will not always be possible to keep 1.5 meters distance from each other. The goal of the measure is to reduce the price of face masks for end users.

This temporary measure will not affect the input VAT recovery of the suppliers of the face masks. For this purpose the VAT zero rate instead of a VAT exemption (without input VAT credit) will be applicable.

Import of medical relief products and equipment

Currently, a conditional exemption from import duties (customs duties) on the import of personal protective equipment is in place. In a recent letter the government confirmed that it also temporarily exempts face masks and other personal protective equipment from import VAT.

These exemptions apply when:

  • the protective equipment is imported by, for example, governmental institutions, philanthropic institutions, hospitals, health care institutions and qualified health carers that have received a permit from Customs. This also applies to a private organization or a purchasing consortium that imports on behalf of the aforementioned institutions. 
  • the goods are being made available free of charge to persons affected by or at risk from COVID-19 or involved in combating the COVID-19.

The exemptions will in principle apply retroactively from January 30 of this year and will in any case apply until July 31. The European Commission, that has approved these measures, may extend the relief if necessary.

Due to this retroactive effect you may have paid import duties and VAT. It is not clear how this issue will be solved but further guidance will be published soon. In any case, we recommend you to identify the options for retroactive recovery of import duties and VAT.


If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact your VAT advisor.

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