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Sale of vouchers via the Internet is subject to VAT

TheMünster Tax Court has ruled that the sale of vouchers for leisure experiences via the Internet constitutes a taxable service to the customer and not an intermediary service to the organizer.

In the years 2013 and 2014, the plaintiff operated an internet portal on which he offered various leisure experiences. The claim presupposed the purchase of a voucher, which the plaintiff sold in his own name and for his own account. Acquirers were able to select the experience and make appointments via the Internet portal. The plaintiff provided the customers with the information required for this purpose. In the event of the service being used by a voucher holder, the plaintiff forwarded the corresponding amount to the respective organizer, deducting an “intermediary commission”, and issued a credit note for this with a VAT statement. In its sales tax returns, the plaintiff did not treat the customers’ payments for the vouchers as taxable sales, but only the brokerage commissions. The tax office, on the other hand, already treated the sale of the vouchers as a service subject to VAT and reduced the remuneration in the case of redemption of the vouchers in accordance with § 17 UStG by the amounts forwarded to the organizers.

The Münster Fiscal Court dismissed the action brought against this.

In the opinion of the Tax Court, the plaintiff provided taxable other services to the voucher purchasers. By operating its Internet portal, it had provided customers with an infrastructure for booking and making use of the experiences on offer. The services would not only have included the issuing of the vouchers, but also further processes such as the transmission of the contact data required for the appointment as well as the implementation and organization of the experiences. The plaintiff had also not merely mediated the experience services performed by the organizers. Rather, these services were initially provided by the organizers to the plaintiff and he provided them to the customers. He had acted as a performing entrepreneur vis-à-vis the customers, since he had offered the services on his Internet portal and had provided corresponding organizational services.

However, the plaintiff could not claim an input tax deduction from the organizers’ services due to the lack of proper invoices. The tax office had also wrongly reduced the tax base by the payments forwarded to the organizers in accordance with Section 17 of the German Turnover Tax Act (UStG), which, however, did not lead to the assessment of a higher turnover tax due to the prohibition of extinguishment.

The tax court allowed the appeal to the BFH.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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