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Five of the most controversial VAT decisions

(3) Coin-operated private pornography viewing booths

When a pornography shop in Bruges tried to get a VAT reduction for its viewing booths on the basis of being a cultural venue , the Belgian authorities were having none of it. But the owners of the creatively-named Erotic Centre refused to back down, and the case ended up in the European Court of Justice were it was ruled that the taxman was right.

Erotic Centres bosses claimed that the service offered should get the same VAT treatment as cinema tickets arguing that the number of seats, the type of film shown or the method of projection used should be considered irrelevant for the purposes of VAT classification.

But the shops private, curtained booths in which customers can select from a range of adult-oriented viewing options were excluded from the tax exemption on the grounds that cinemas must show the same film to multiple people.

The concept of admissions to a cinema must be interpreted in accordance with the usual meaning of those words. The various events and facilities listed have in particular the common feature that they are available to the public on prior payment of an admission fee giving all those who pay it the right collectively to enjoy the cultural and entertainment services characteristic of those events and facilities,” ruled advocate general Yves Bot.

Therefore, the answer to the question referred for a preliminary ruling is that the concept of admissions to a cinema must be interpreted as meaning that it does not cover the payment made by a customer so as to be able to watch on his own one or more films, or extracts from films, in private cubicles such as those in issue in the main proceedings,” she added.

For some reason, the possibility of extending the booths to accommodate groups doesnt appear to have been considered.

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