European Foundation
for the Improvement of
Living and Working Conditions

The tripartite EU agency providing knowledge to assist
in the development of better social, employment and
work-related policies

EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level policy measures

Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure BG-2020-27/1104 Updated – measures in Bulgaria

COVID-19: Reduction of VAT for certain goods and services

COVID-19: Намаляване на ДДС за определени стоки и услуги

Country Bulgaria , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 01 July 2020 – 31 December 2022
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Supporting businesses to stay afloat
– Deferral of payments or liabilities
Author Eva Dimitrova (for Eurofound)
Measure added 11 September 2020 (updated 18 January 2022)

Background information

After a meeting between representatives of the restaurant industry and government leaders, in May 2020, the Bulgarian government decided to decrease the value added tax (VAT) from 20% to 9% for dining and catering services, under the requirement that the minimum social іnѕurаnсе threshold fоr аll еmрlоуееѕ іn thе ѕесtоrѕ 'Ноѕріtаlіtу', 'Rеѕtаurаntѕ', 'Trаvеl аgеnсіеѕ' аnd аll оthеr асtіvіtіеѕ rеlаtеd tо trаvеl аnd rеѕеrvаtіоnѕ is rаіѕеd frоm ВGN 610 (€300) tо ВGN 800 (€400).

After debates in the parliament, the parliament agreed to decrease VAT also for baby foods and nappies, books and textbooks to 9%. Added tax for food and pharmaceuticals remains 20%.

The estimated budget loss from this reduction is estimated at BGN 20 million (€10 million) for a year and a half.

In Bulgaria, the standard tax rate for consumption goods is 20%; an exemption make accommodation services with permanent VAT rate of 9%.

Content of measure

The VAT rate for restaurant and catering services, books and textbooks, baby food and diapers is reduced from 20% to 9% The reduced rate comes into force on 1 July 2020 and will apply until 31 December 2021.

The reduced VAT should cover all goods and services offered in restaurants, including certain alcoholic products such as beer and wine. Although, VАТ іѕ аn іndіrесt tах іntеndеd tо tах thе fіnаl сuѕtоmеr, іtѕ rеduсtіоn during the pandemic (unlike for example in Germany), is not intended to benefit the final customer; tax cuts should increase restaurants' profits. According to the government, this measure shall help restaurants mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure is implemented as part of a package of measures to support the real sector and the sectors most affected by the crisis.

Updates

The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

23 December 2021

The VAT reduction measure is extended up to the end of 2022. Employers' representatives speaking on behalf of the restaurants and book publishing sectors expressed their opinion that the measure should be a permanent one and thus adequate support will be provided during the COVID-19 crisis.

28 July 2020

Services of gyms and sport centres were added to the VAT relief programme. These will be taxed with 9% instead with 20% until the end of the year.

Use of measure

Reportedly, the measure was implemented by affected parties immediately after its adoption (10 June 2020), although it should have taken effect at a later stage (1 July 2020). This created controversy between business and government and created chaos in revenue agencies.

Public and experts hold the application of VAT reliefs for random. According to the media, in most of the cases, the reduced VAT is not transferred to the final customer.

The reduced VAT for restaurant services does not apply for takeaway food, which is still taxed with 20%. This contributes to further public tension, as the measure explicitly supports dining at restaurants in time of COVID-19 pandemic.

Restaurants claim that so far their turnover has shrunk by 30% due to the COVID crisis. The summer data of the National Revenue Agency show a minus of 10%. The political condition for a lower VAT was to lighten the sector, but so far there is no visible evidence. The preliminary evaluation of the measure shows results that show that it does not work, as a number of vicious practices are created.

In the first two months after the introduction of the lower VAT rate, however, the nominal indirect tax paid was nearly 65% less than in July and August last year, according to the National Revenue Agency (NRA). The sector has become brighter only to the extent that some establishments have raised the insurance of their employees.

The situation in the report on the state budget for 2020 shows the same: The fiscal effect on the revenue side is significant, without leading to solving the problems in these sectors, which were highlighted as the main goal for the reduction of VAT.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Does not apply to workers Sector specific set of companies
Companies providing essential services
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Employers' organisations
Company / Companies
No special funding required

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Informed Consulted
Form Not applicable Direct consultation outside a formal body

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Only employers' organisations
  • Main level of involvement: Sectoral or branch level

Involvement

Negotiation among involved parties was intransparent. However, the measure was discussed within the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation, but was not supported unanimously. The government did not listen to all social partners and decided to negotiate directly with representatives of a specific industry, ignoring national interests.

Views and reactions

The social partners and experts were not unanimous on the implementation of the measure. The unions were strongly opposed, and employers' organisations were divided. According to the unions, economic policy should be made through the elements of expenditures, not through revenues in the budget. The Confederation of the Unions does not approve differentiated VAT and proposes general VAT decrease from the current 20% to 15%.

According to the employers, it is not clear why exactly these industries are prioritised, especially since the current government in Bulgaria has repeatedly stated that it will not change the tax system until the end of its term.

As of October 2020, representatives of tourist and restaurant businesses evaluate the measure as 'good' as the additional profit made by the tax cut has saved many companies from bankruptcy. Some representatives say that the rise of the social insurance minimum in the industry has led to higher personal costs, but it does not constitute a complaint, as it will give staff more security in case of unemployment due to the COVID-19 containment measures.

The Bulgarian Institute for Market Economics warned that the differentiated tax reliefs were introduced without any expert evaluation; and will potentially harm demand equilibrium in many industries. Furthermore, according to the institute, the measure can cause increased risk of circumvention and tax fraud. They categorise the measure as 'political' and not 'economic'.

The extension of the measure in December 2021 was discussed with the national representative social partners organizations. The employers organizations insisted on extending the VAT reduction in 2022 and proposed amendments to be adopted concerning the scope and the duration of the measure. The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria opposed the VAT reduction for the restaurants since no relief to the upward consumer prices is introduced by the restaurant owners.

According to Dimitar Manolov, leader of Confederation of Labour "Podkrepa", the VAT reduction measure could have been extended to other sectors as well with the extension decision adopted in December 2021.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      I - Accommodation And Food Service Activities I55 Accommodation
      I56 Food and beverage service activities
      J - Information And Communication J58 Publishing activities
      R - Arts, Entertainment And Recreation R93 Sports activities and amusement and recreation activities

This case is not occupation-specific.

Sources

  • 15 May 2020: GERB has further expanded the range of activities with reduced VAT (www.economic.bg)
  • 22 May 2020: Parliament cuts VAT to 9% for restaurants and books (www.mediapool.bg)
  • 29 May 2020: Preferences through differentiated VAT rates will have an adverse socio-economic and fiscal effect in the medium and long term Прочетете повече на: https://ime.bg/bg/articles/preferencii-prez-diferencirani-stavki-na-dds-shte-imat-neblagopriyaten-socialno-ikonomieski-i-fiskalen-efekt-v-srednosroen-i-dylgosroen-plan/#ixzz6YnEQXOVQ (ime.bg)
  • 10 June 2020: ДДС за ресторантьорски услуги, книги, бебешки храни и пелени става 9 процента (parliament.bg)
  • 19 July 2020: CITUB requested a general reduction in VAT Прочети още на: https://www.dnes.bg/stranata/2020/05/17/knsb-poiska-obshto-namaliavane-na-dds.449997 (news.bg)
  • 28 July 2020: The services of the gyms also with 9% VAT The services of the gyms also with 9% VAT The services of the gyms also with 9% VAT (www.monitor.bg)
  • 23 October 2020: VAT bill, please (www.capital.bg)
  • 23 October 2020: ДДС сметката, мол (www.capital.bg)
  • 08 November 2020: Диференцираният ДДС мина по пътя на COVID и зави в нова посока (www.investor.bg)
  • 06 December 2021: Тристранката не удължи намаленото ДДС за заведенията (news.bg)
  • 23 December 2021: Удължиха ставката от 9% ДДС за книгите и туризма до края на 2022 г. (news.bg)
  • 23 December 2021: Удовлетворен ли е бизнесът от намаленото ДДС (nova.bg)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), COVID-19: Reduction of VAT for certain goods and services, measure BG-2020-27/1104 (measures in Bulgaria), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/BG-2020-27_1104.html

Eurofound publications based on EU PolicyWatch

19 May 2022

 

Working life in the COVID-19 pandemic 2021

This publication consists of individual country reports on working life during 2021 for 28 countries (the 27 EU Member States and Norway).

Publication

24 June 2020

 

COVID-19: Policy responses across Europe

This report aims to present an overview of both large-scale government measures and collective agreements that impact on large groups of workers.

16 June 2022

 

COVID-19 in the workplace: Employer's responsibility to ensure a safe workplace

Throughout 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, specific occupational health and safety rules were reintroduced due to increases in infection rates.

Article

16 June 2022

 

Back to work after COVID-19: Testing, vaccines and green certificates

In the second pandemic year 2021, access to one's place of work was increasingly dependent on providing proof of either having been tested, vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 in several countries.

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.