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ECJ Case C-715/18 (Segler-Vereinigung Cuxhaven) – Questions – Reduced VAT rate for transactions relating to the collection of port charges

Questions asked to the European Court of Justice on 18 December 2018 in case C-715/18 (Segler-Vereinigung Cuxhaven).

Unofficial translation

Facts (simplified):

Segler-Vereinigung Cuxhave is a sailing club in Germany, and as such is an officially registered association of public utility whose purpose is to promote sailing and motor sports.

It operates around 300 berths (i.e. anchor places for boats) in its port, which in the years under review were for about 50 percent as permanent berths for members.

The members are obliged in case of absence to allow the use of their berths by passers-by. The remaining 50 percent of the berths are available to passers-by for an unlimited period.

Segler-Vereinigung Cuxhave applied the reduced VAT rate to the compensation for making berths available to passers-by.

The German tax authorities did not agree with this, and also the Finanzgericht dismissed Cuxhave’s arguments that the short-term availability of berths for ships could be classified as “short-term rental of parcels on camping grounds”.

According to the Finanzgericht qualified the the short-term availability of berths for ships as “leasing of parking space for vehicles”, which is subject to the standard VAT rate. “A ship is and remains a means of transport, despite the fact that many ships have overnight accommodation facilities.”

Cuxhave believes that this view violates the principle of equality, since the provision of parcels for campers and caravans does fall under the reduced VAT rate. This would favor a comparable economic activity. Cuxhave claims that his services are similar to the provision of ‘accommodation services’, not concern the parking of a vehicle. In this respect it must be notes that Cuxhave  only charges port fees in case of overnight stays.

Preliminary questions:

The German Court asks the following preliminary questions to the ECJ:

Does the application of the reduced VAT rate for rental of plots on camping sites and in caravan parks include also the letting of berths for ships?

Source: minbuza.nl (Dutch)

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