EU to rule if bridge is a sport and liable to VAT

Tue 4th Aug 2015

The UK Upper Tribunal Court has asked the European Court of Justice to decide if contact Bridge can be considered a sport.  If it finds that it is not, then any entry or membership fees to clubs or associations will be subject to European VAT – the average EU VAT rate is over 21%.

At the centre of the case is the English Bridge Union’s (EBU) contention that contract or duplicate bridge requires developed brain skills, which promote mental and physical wellbeing.  This would classify it as a sport within the EU VAT Directive, and therefore any related income would be VAT exempt.

The UK’s HMRC has argued that there is no significant physical exertion related to the outcome of the activity.  This therefore classifies it as a game, and subject to VAT on any membership or participation fees.  This view was upheld by the First Tier Tribunal court in 2013.

This ECJ referral is a set-back for the bridge world which had hoped it had it was about to succeed in having HMRC’s position that sport has to involve physical activity or fitness overturned.