Bullfighting cannot use ‘live’ tax rate, France rules

Bullfighting cannot be considered as a “live performance”, and is therefore not eligible for a reduced 5.5% VAT rate, French high court the Conseil d’Etat has ruled.

7 May 2019
The Conseil d’Etat has rejected a request to allow bullfighting companies to use the 5.5% tax rate instead of 20%
By Connexion journalist

Bullfighting company Simon Casas Production (SCP) - which mainly operates in Nîmes (Gard) - had requested that the court consider a reduction of the VAT on tickets from 20% to 5.5%.

The latter amount is permitted for performances defined legally as “live”, which rely on the individual work of performers - such as circus acts, theatre, or concert shows.

SCP has been fighting the issue for years, and has seen support from other bullfighting organisations, including in Nîmes, Arles (Bouches-du-Rhône) and Béziers (Hérault).

Between 2011 and 2014, the company had even applied the lower VAT amount by itself - although it did eventually pay the €2.063 million difference in tax accumulated, that it had saved “to show our good faith to authorities”. It then put the tax back up to 20%, but continued to fight for the lower amount.

Now, the Conseil d’Etat has formally rejected this new demand for the lower VAT rate.

Gilles Vangelisti, director general of SCP, said: “We regret this final decision, but we respect it. We only wanted to provoke a debate, but we consider this to be unfair. Whether you are for or against bullfighting, it is still a show, from which bullfighters benefit from the artists’ tax regime. It’s absurd.”

The company has said that it will continue to fight, and is considering escalating the issue to the European courts, in the hope they will disagree with the Conseil d’Etat.

Yet, anti-bullfighting associations have welcomed the decision.

Claire Starozinski, president of anti-bullfighting group Alliance Anti-Corrida, has said she had previously received four separate letters from the budget minister - in 1998, 2005, 2007 and 2015 - assuring her that bullfighting would never benefit from a 5.5% VAT rate.

She said that the letters explained: “[This 5.5% rate] is strictly reserved for live shows that rely on the service of varied artists (musicians, actors, choreographers). Bullfighters are not considered to be artists, as their services do not represent ‘intellectual work’.”

Ms Starozinski added: “Bullfighting is not a live show, it is a death show. It is outrageous to consider bullfighters, who kill animals, as artists. It is neither art, nor culture.”

Thierry Hély, president of bullfighting abolition pressure group FLAC (la Fédération des Luttes Pour l’Abolition des Corridas), said: “This is a death show. It is exactly the opposite of a live [living] show. [It is] the agony of a bull until its death, to growing applause from the public.”

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