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On 26 October 2017, the  European Court of Justice (ECJ) passed a judgment concerning the VAT exemption on the entry fees of the Duplicate Bridge tournaments organised by the English Bridge Union Limited (EBU)


Case Summary

Based in England a non-profit body, the EBU organises Duplicate Bridge Tournaments; a card game that utilises the player’s mental skill and has almost no physical element to it.

The EBU had requested that the entry fees paid by the competitors for entering organised competitions should be VAT exempt as under the VAT Directive whereby activities ‘closely linked to sport or physical education’ are exempt of VAT.  

This grant was refused by the tax authorities as the VAT Directive that grants exemptions on services ‘closely linked to sport or physical education’ is for a sport and the activity must have a significant physical element, which Duplicate Bridge does not.

The Upper Tribunal (Tax and Chancery Chamber) in the United Kingdom referred the case to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling.  The ECJ came to a similar judgment as of the tax authorities and the Upper Tribunal and confirmed that the concept of sport in the VAT Directive means that the activity requires a physical element. It also stated that even though the activity by the EBU promotes mental and physical health, it is not enough to be considered a ‘sport’.

This case puts emphasis on the activity hence little to no physical element cannot be considered a sport. However, given the history of the tournament it can be considered a cultural service and receive a VAT exemption.

Click here for the detailed proceedings of the court