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ECJ Case C-647/17 (Srf Konsulterna AB) – Opinion – Training services or access to event

On 10 January 2019 Advocate General SHARPSTON gave its opinion in case C‑647/17 (Srf konsulterna AB), regarding the question if the organisation of a training qualifies as training/educational services or as giving access to an event.

Facts (simplified):

1. By this request for a preliminary ruling the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court asks the European Court of Justice for guidance as to whether a seminar organised by a taxable person established in Sweden for participants who themselves are taxable persons established in Sweden, but taking place in another Member State, should be subject to VAT in Sweden or in that other Member State. Should the place of supply of such a seminar be determined in accordance with Article 44 of Directive 2006/112/EC (2) or Article 53 of that directive?

Srf konsulterna AB (‘Srf konsulterna’) is a company established in Sweden, wholly owned by a professional association for accounting, management and salary consultants. It provides educational and vocational training to consultants in return for a fee.

Amongst other activities, Srf konsulterna provides seminars lasting for 30 hours spread over five days with one day’s break in the middle. Those seminars are made available only to professionals established or having a fixed establishment in Sweden, regardless of whether they are members of Srf konsulterna’s parent professional association. The syllabus is decided in advance and assumes that participants have prior knowledge and experience of accountancy issues, although it can be adapted depending on the level of competence of those who actually attend. Seminars take place in a conference facility.

Participants must register in advance and have been accepted before the start of the course. Thus, Srf konsulterna has access to information on participants’ identity, such as their names, addresses, personal identification numbers or registration numbers. Payment is made in advance.

Some of Srf konsulterna’s seminars take place in various locations in Sweden, whilst others are held in other Member States.

It is with respect to the latter (‘the seminars at issue’) that Srf konsulterna requested Skatterättsnämnden (the Revenue Law Commission, Sweden) to rule on whether the place of supply should be considered to be Sweden or the Member State where the seminar took place.

The Skatterättsnämnden held that such seminars are to be regarded as supplied in Sweden — even if they physically take place abroad. Accordingly, Article 44 rather than Article 53 applies, with the result that the VAT is chargeable in Sweden.

The Skatteverket (Swedish local tax administration) did not agree with the grounds given in that decision and lodged an appeal against that ruling before the Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen (Supreme Administrative Court).

Taking the view that the meaning of Article 53 of Directive 2006/112 and its relationship to Article 44 of that directive were not entirely clear, the referring court stayed the proceedings and referred the following question to this Court:

‘Must the expression “admission to events” in Article 53 of [Directive 2006/112] be interpreted as meaning that it covers a service in the form of a five-day course on accountancy which is supplied solely totaxable persons and requires advance registration and payment?’

Conclusion

The A-G gives the follow opinion:

The expression ‘supplies in respect of admission to … educational … events’ in Article 53 of the VAT Directive should be interpreted as meaning that it covers a service supplied solely to taxable persons whose essential element consists of selling rights for individuals to be admitted to a professional educational seminar extending over one or several days, where that seminar takes place in a specified location and its subject matter is defined in advance, which it is for the national court to determine.

It is immaterial whether: (i) all customers make information, such as their fiscal identification data, available to the supplier; (ii) the service in question requires advance registration or payment; (iii) that service is offered only to a specific group or to the general public; and (iv) the fact that the service is taxed in the Member State where the event in question takes place leads to an additional administrative burden for the supplier or its customers.

Source: Curia

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