Brussels, 8 October 2009
VAT : super-reduced rate for the first performances of a work: the European Commission launches the second stage of infringement proceedings against France
The European Commission aims to promote cultural diversity and supports the efforts of Member States in this area. However, it must also ensure the uniform application of binding Community rules on VAT. Consequently, it takes the view that France cannot extend the scope of application of the super-reduced rate of VAT that it is authorised to apply, on a temporary basis, to the first performances of a work.
Reduced rates are an exception to the common system of VAT and Article 99 of the VAT Directive prohibits, in principle, rates of less than 5%. However, Article 110 of the Directive authorises Member States that, on 1 January 1991, were applying lower rates to maintain them on a temporary basis. Nevertheless, the scope of application of those super-reduced rates cannot be extended.
Since 1986, France has been applying a VAT rate of 2.10% to the first 140 performances of a work on certain conditions and, in particular , provided that drinks are not served during performances. Only the rate of 5.50% could be applied to the ticket price if drinks were available.
Since 1 January 2007, the amended French legislation has no longer specified that drinks cannot be served and thus France has extended the scope of application of the rate of 2.10%.
The Commission does not contest the maintenance of the super-reduced rate for the first 140 performances, but takes the view that the extension of this favourable rate to performances at which drinks are served is incompatible with Articles 99 and 110 of the VAT Directive and goes against the principles of harmonisation, which imply that a derogation cannot be extended. The Commission has therefore decided to send France a reasoned opinion.
If French legislation is not amended to comply with Community rule s within two months, the matter may be referred to the Court of Justice.
The Commission has given this case reference No 2007/2404.
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