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EU to rule if bridge is a sport and liable to VAT

  • Aug 3, 2015 | Richard Asquith

EU to rule if bridge is a sport and liable to VAT

The UK Upper Tribunal Court has asked the European Court of Justice to decide if contact Bridge can be considered a sport.  If it finds that it is not, then any entry or membership fees to clubs or associations will be subject to European VAT - the average EU VAT rate is over 21%.

At the centre of the case is the English Bridge Union’s (EBU) contention that contract or duplicate bridge requires developed brain skills, which promote mental and physical wellbeing.  This would classify it as a sport within the EU VAT Directive, and therefore any related income would be VAT exempt.

The UK’s HMRC has argued that there is no significant physical exertion related to the outcome of the activity.  This therefore classifies it as a game, and subject to VAT on any membership or participation fees.  This view was upheld by the First Tier Tribunal court in 2013.

This ECJ referral is a set-back for the bridge world which had hoped it had it was about to succeed in having HMRC’s position that sport has to involve physical activity or fitness overturned.

VP Global Indirect Tax
Richard Asquith
VP Global Indirect Tax Richard Asquith
Richard Asquith is VP Global Indirect Tax at Avalara, helping businesses understand their compliance obligations as they grow globally. He is part of the European leadership team which won International Tax Review's 2020 Tax Technology Firm of the Year. Richard trained as an accountant with KPMG in the UK, and went on to work in Hungary, Russia and France with EY.