On 25 November 2020 the Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen (Sweden) lodged this case to the ECJ. By its reference, the Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen (Supreme Administrative Court) seeks clarity on how the terms ‘voucher’ and ‘multi-purpose voucher’, used in the VAT Directive, are to be interpreted and what is meant by them. The question referred for a preliminary ruling has arisen in the context of proceedings in which an advance ruling was sought by a company established for the purpose of selling a card, referred to as the ‘city card’, which gives the cardholder the right to obtain certain services in certain places for a limited period of time and up to a certain value.
The provisions relating to vouchers in the VAT Directive are relatively new and are applicable to vouchers issued after 31 December 2018. It seems that the Court is yet to have the opportunity to take a position on how the terms ‘voucher’ and ‘multi-purpose voucher’ are to be interpreted. The parties disagree as to whether a card such as the one at issue in the main proceedings is to be regarded as a multipurpose voucher. The question of how cards of that type are to be treated was the topic of discussions within the EU VAT Committee, but no consensus was reached in that regard. According to information in the main proceedings, a similar card has previously been considered to be a multi-purpose voucher in Denmark.
Article in the EU VAT Directive
For the purposes of this Directive, the following definitions shall apply:
(1) ‘voucher’ means an instrument where there is an obligation to accept it as consideration or part consideration for a supply of goods or services and where the goods or services to be supplied or the identities of their potential suppliers are either indicated on the instrument itself or in related documentation, including the terms and conditions of use of such instrument;
(2) ‘single-purpose voucher’ means a voucher where the place of supply of the goods or services to which the voucher relates, and the VAT due on those goods or services, are known at the time of issue of the voucher;
(3) ‘multi-purpose voucher’ means a voucher, other than a single-purpose voucher.
The company in question sells cards to tourists visiting Stockholm. Those cards give cardholders the right to be admitted to around 60 attractions, such as sights and museums, for a limited period of time and up to a certain value. They also entitle cardholders to use around 10 passenger transport services, such as tours provided by the company’s own Hop-on-Hop-off buses and boats, as well as sightseeing tours with other organisers. The services are either subject to tax, at various rates, or are tax exempt. The cardholder uses the card to pay for admission or use and merely presents the card to a special card reader, without paying anything further. In accordance with an agreement concluded with the company, the organiser then receives consideration from the company for each admission or use up to a certain percentage of the ordinary admission or use price. The organiser is not obliged to admit the cardholder more than once. The company does not guarantee a minimum number of visitors. Once the value limit has been reached, the card is no longer valid.
There are various versions of the card with different validity periods and value limits. A card for an adult with a 24-hour validity period costs SEK 669. During
the validity period, the cardholder can use the card to pay for services having a value [Or. 6] of up to SEK 1 800. The validity period starts to run when the card
is used for the first time. The card must be used within one year of purchase.
The Skatterättsnämnden (Revenue Law Commission) found that the card is not a multi-purpose voucher. The Skatterättsnämnden concluded that it follows from the definition of ‘voucher’, in conjunction with the provisions relating to the calculation of the taxable amount, that a voucher must have a certain nominal value or relate to certain specified supplies of goods or services. According to the Skatterättsnämnden, it must emerge clearly from a voucher what may be obtained in return for that voucher even though – when dealing with a multi-purpose voucher – there may be uncertainty as to, for example, the rate of tax or the country of taxation
The parties’ positions
The card cannot be regarded as being characterised by the fact that it is exchanged for goods or services and, for that reason, it cannot be considered to be a
‘voucher’. The distinguishing feature of cards of that type is that they are valid for only a limited period of time (between one and five consecutive days) and that they have a high value limit in proportion to their validity period. It is a type of experience card, giving the cardholder the right to admission to a large number of attractions and to an unlimited number of trips on Hop-on-Hop-off buses and boats. The more the card is used, the greater the reduction for the cardholder when compared with the normal price that he or she would have had to pay for each attraction. Because of the card’s high value limit and short validity period, it is certain that the average consumer will not make full use of the card.
DSAB Destination Stockholm AB
The card is a multi-purpose voucher. Organisers are obliged to accept the card as consideration. The terms and conditions to which the cardholders are subject make it clear which services may be paid for with the card and who the suppliers are.
The cardholder may use the card in respect of all the attractions which are supplied by organisers with which the company has entered into agreements, up to
the applicable value limit. The card satisfies the criteria laid down in Article 30(a)(1) of the VAT Directive. There is no scope for imposing any further
requirements in order for an instrument to be considered to constitute a voucher.
The card may [Or. 7] be used as consideration for services which are subject to different tax rates. For that reason, at the time of issuance, the amount of VAT
payable in respect of the services covered by the card is not known.
Must Article 30(a) of the VAT Directive be interpreted as meaning that a card, such as the one at issue in the main proceedings, which gives the cardholder the
right to receive various services at a given place for a limited period of time and up to a certain value constitutes a voucher and, in such circumstances, constitutes a multi-purpose voucher?
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