Poker wins and cash games = commercial income?

The Finanzgericht Münster had to decide on the conditions under which participation in poker tournaments, Internet poker events and cash games leads to a commercial activity.

The plaintiff in that will did not declare poker profits and income from cash games to the tax office as income from the income tax return. However, in the context of an external audit, the Finanzamt concluded that the applicant, as a professional poker player, had obtained both commercial income and turnover subject to VAT and issued corresponding tax notices.

The action procedure concerning the VAT notices did not succeed at first, since the Bundesfinanzhof annulled the judgment of the Finanzgericht Münster, since there was no direct connection between participation in poker games and the prize money received in the event of success.

Accordingly, the applicant also took the view, in the action brought against income tax and business tax, that he had not engaged in commercial activity. Rather, poker is pure gambling.

The court only upheld this action at the beginning of his career, when he participated in poker tournaments only in addition to a regular profession. The applicant’s profits in the early years were due to ‘beginner’s luck’.

As a “professional poker player”, however, this looks different. With a professional approach and with training, winnings would no longer depend solely on happiness.

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