Advocaten / Avocats / Lawyers

Thursday, 09 April 2020

What are the VAT consequences if an effective refund is replaced by a new ticket or voucher for an event or booking at a later time in case an event or travel/hotel/restaurant or other booking is cancelled?

As a result of the imposed COVID-19 measures, numerous cancellations of events and bookings for flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. have occurred. In order to mitigate the loss of revenue due to refunds to their customers, many of the affected companies have issued new tickets/vouchers that can be redeemed at a later time in order to receive the initially cancelled services. In this way, they do not have to reimburse the revenue already received.

However, the above-described method of working also has certain VAT implications. In particular, the following questions arise:

  • What about the VAT already paid on the received payments in the event of cancellation and subsequent issuance of a new ticket or voucher?
  • What about the chargeability of VAT on the issued ticket/voucher?

In order to obtain a VAT refund, the Belgian VAT legislation in principle requires that the supplier or service provider reimburse the VAT amount to their customers. Since there is no effective refund to the customer at the time the voucher is issued, this seems to limit the VAT refund possibilities in the present case. Hence, if the new ticket/voucher were to qualify as a multiple-use voucher, there is a risk that VAT would become due a second time at the time of redemption of the ticket/voucher. This can of course not be the aim of the VAT legislation.

When a new ticket/voucher is issued, various defendable positions could be taken. As a general principle, it should in our view indeed be argued that VAT can only be claimed once for the same transaction. For example, it could be argued that the issuance of a voucher, as an alternative to a refund of the previous booking/reservation, being a "free of charge" transaction should not constitute a VAT transaction as such; in this case, nothing actually happens for VAT. In another hypothesis, this qualifies as a barter transaction whereby the customer exchanges his right to a refund for the issuance of the voucher in question. In the latter case the supplier should be able to claim a VAT refund on the on the initial payments received because a right to a refund has been granted; the issuance and redemption of the voucher then follows its own VAT treatment (depending on whether it qualifies as a single- or multi-purpose voucher).

If you have any questions on this subject, please contact the authors of this article or via covid19@tiberghien.com.

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