VAT for Virtual Events – Exemption, Hybrid Events and Reduced Rates

David Stokes
May 17, 2022

In a recent blog, we considered the upcoming changes to the VAT treatment of virtual events. Today, we will consider some of the issues that may arise.

Exemption from VAT

Many hosts currently use the available educational or fundraising exemptions, especially where the delegates are private individuals without the right of deduction, e.g., doctors. For events with physical attendance the host must consider the rules of the Member State where the event is held since that is where the VAT is due.

Under the new rules, a VAT exemption will be less relevant for B2B virtual events where the reverse charge applies as the attendee assesses the charge to tax themselves. However, it will remain relevant where delegates are unable to apply the reverse charge and unable to deduct the VAT charged – e.g. doctors. In such circumstances VAT is due where the doctor normally resides and that is where the exemption must be considered.

These new rules may require the host to assess the availability of the exemption in several Member States and may also require multiple ruling requests to be submitted. This is likely to increase operating costs substantially, and the (unintended) consequence could be that exemptions are not considered to the detriment of delegates.

Hybrid events

Many future events are likely to include virtual attendees since it increases overall attendance at an event, requiring the host to manage two invoicing regimes. There could be issues where one taxpayer has both physical and virtual attendees. In this case, the host will need to issue two invoices – one with local VAT for the physical attendance (and where the exemption may apply) and one where VAT is due in the customer’s Member State and the general reverse charge may apply. The attendance of B2C delegates will further increase this complexity for the host.

What happens if a delegate is invoiced for physical attendance, but changes to virtual attendance at the last minute?

When the host provides the login details for virtual attendance, this may change the place of supply. If the place of supply changes, the host must cancel the original invoice and issue a new invoice with the amended VAT treatment.

Non-EU hosts with B2C events

Where a host currently holds an event with virtual admission for non-taxable EU delegates (e.g. doctors) then the place of supply is where the supplier is established. For a host established outside the EU, no EU VAT is due (ignoring the possibility of use and enjoyment), and it is also likely that no local VAT is due in the host’s own country.

Implementation of the new rules will mean that the host must charge VAT in the Member State where the doctor normally resides. This will not only result in unrecoverable VAT for the doctor but will also increase the compliance costs of the host. Virtually attending such an event in 2025 may become significantly more expensive than in previous years.

Transposition

The article governing the transposition of these changes requires Member States to “adopt and publish” the necessary laws, regulations etc., by 31 December 2024. The changes will then apply from 1 January 2025.

Member States must not break rank and apply these rules before this date. A situation where some Member States adopt and apply the rules early could lead to double taxation, particularly in B2C transactions.

Once the rules are in force on 1 January 2025, several issues could arise. What happens for an event in January 2025 where delegates must pay for admission ahead of time in 2024? Where is VAT accounted for, and under which rules?

For B2B, there should be no issue since the service remains a general rule, but there is a real issue for non-taxable delegates, e.g. doctors.

For example, a US host holds an event where a German doctor will attend virtually. The event is in January 2025, but the delegate must pay the admission fee by 30 November 2024 to secure a place. Under current rules, applicable in 2024, the place of supply is where the supplier is established, so no VAT is due on the invoice. But when the event happens in January 2025, the new rules say that German VAT is due.

The time of supply rules are not affected by these changes but could a tax authority seek to change these to increase its tax revenue? For example, Greek VAT law says that the tax point is when the event takes place – not when the invoice is issued/payment received. So, in the above example, Greek VAT would be due for a Greek B2C delegate.

Reduced VAT rates

When considering the taxation of virtual events, the new rules state that in view of the digital transformation of the economy, it should be possible for Member States to provide the same treatment of live-streamed activities, including events, as those which are eligible for reduced rates when attended in person. To enable this, the annex detailing which services can benefit from a reduced rate will be amended to include admission to:

  • Shows
  • Theatres
  • Circuses
  • Fairs
  • Amusement parks
  • Concerts
  • Museums
  • Zoos
  • Cinemas
  • Exhibitions
  • Cultural events or facilities
  • Live streaming of any of these events/visits

This change means that events that are live streamed can benefit from a reduced VAT rate. Though the changes to the place of supply rules refer to “virtual attendance” for B2B and “streamed or made virtually available” for B2C.

Are we to assume that “virtual attendance” = “live streamed”? But “streaming” can be live or recorded. Do these changes also cause an issue for VAT rate determination?

If a delegate watches an event live, then a reduced rate is possible. If the same event is watched via downloading a recording later, then the reduced rate is not possible. If one fee gives a delegate the right to attend the event virtually and download the event for future reference, then the concept of a mixed supply may be relevant.

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Get in touch to discuss your VAT compliance needs or download our guide, Understanding VAT Obligations: European Events.

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Author

David Stokes

As an FCCA of many years, David brings a commercially focused accounting perspective to the treatment of European VAT issues. He specialises in the understanding of cross-border VAT transactions and has helped many clients map their flows to optimise their VAT position. He has successfully completed the VAT Forum’s ‘Expert in European VAT’ course and is a partner of the forum. As well as advising clients David also sits on several technology product development teams at Sovos.
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