Campaigns on VAT Regulations for the Live Music Sector

Examples of France and Spain

The Value Added Tax, or VAT, in the European Union is a general, broadly based consumption tax assessed on the value added to goods and services.

  • a general tax that applies, in principle, to all commercial activities involving the production and distribution of goods and the provision of services.  However, if the annual turnover of this person is less than a certain limit (which differs according to the Member States) the person does not have to charge VAT on their sales.
  • a consumption tax because it is borne ultimately by the final consumer. It is not a charge on businesses.
  • charged as a percentage of price, which means that the actual tax burden is visible at each stage in the production and distribution chain.
  • collected fractionally, via a system of partial payments whereby taxable persons (i.e., VAT-registered businesses) deduct from the VAT they have collected the amount of tax they have paid to other taxable persons on purchases for their business activities. This mechanism ensures that the tax is neutral regardless of how many transactions are involved.
  • paid to the revenue authorities by the seller of the goods, who is the "taxable person", but it is actually paid by the buyer to the seller as part of the price. It is thus an indirect tax.

Value Added Tax is:

Example of the VAT fractionalised system for the live music sector:

The live music sector is international. It can thus be difficult to grasp all the VAT requirements of each country and to understand what is submitted (and what is not) and in which national fiscal system, like in the context of a European tour for instance.

European Festivals Association (EFA) and PEARLE have released a clear and simple guide to VAT in the live music sector in an international context, giving resource and knowledge on VAT systems to live music professionals.

When governments work on VAT schemes, live music venues or representative associations are not necessarily part of the negociations.


This can result in unfitted laws for a sector that is economic as well as social and cultural.

Through public campaigns, open letters to policy makers, dialogue with territorial and fiscal institutions or protests, there are various way of starting a discussion on VAT policy.


The next slides will present the advocacy examples of FEDELIMA (France) and ACCES (Spain) regarding VAT regulations.


The French VAT system:


  • General rate: 20% (purchase and selling of goods)
  • Reduced rate: 10% (catering)
  • Concert tickets: 5,5%
  • Super-reduced rate: 2,1% (for 140 first productions of a same show + ticketing)


Organisations of general interest may be exempted from VAT.

Sometimes, it is economically more interesting for a venue of general interest to be subject to VAT (and to deduce VAT from what they buy). This depends on the activity of the venue. A venue's restaurant or bar might be more interested in being subject to VAT, while it might be less interesting for the mediation department. In France, it is possible to "sectorise" your activity: be subjected to VAT for part of your activity, and be exempted from VAT for other parts of your activity.


The Rule of the 4 P

In order to establish if an association needs to be submitted to VAT, the organisation needs to be of "disinterested managment" (ie the executive board is volunteer or unpaid) and the organisation compete with the commercial market.

Then, fiscal institutions apply the "rule of the 4 P": Product, Price, Publicity and Public. These 4 criteria make the difference between a commercial organisation and one of general interest.


The service given by the organisation is considered of social utility if it takes into account something not provided by the commercial market.


The organisation must put efforts in ensuring financial accessibility to its services, notably by offering a lower price of entrance than of lucrative sectors.


The communication around the organisation's activity must not consist in commercial publicity.


The organisation should also focus on "unprivileged audiences" in its activities, who do not usually or easily have access to such services.

In 1998, several music federations, including FEDELIMA, joined forces to make the government take into consideration the specificity of the cultural sector.


In collaboration with the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, the organisations developped technical sheets on the not-for-profit criteria of live music venues.


These technical sheets helped venues to see clearer in this system,

and sensitized fiscal institutions in recognising specificity of cultural organisations, which are not in the commercial market.


Commercial Rules for Cultural Organisations?

The organisations who worked on the VAT technical sheets then created the UFISC, a French representative organisation for the cultural sector.


UFISC has expanded this collaborative thinking to encompass employment, then management methods particular to this sector, to finally arrive at the claim for a specific socio-economic space, around shared values such as solidarity and general interest.

VAT and the Creation of UFISC

UFISC's slogan: "Art is public"


Stéphanie Gembarski - FEDELIMA



In September 2012, the Spanish government increased the VAT on concert tickets to 21% (it was at 10% before).

A Public Campaign to Protest against the VAT Increase on Concert Tickets

In reaction, the music sector started a campaign to protest against this increase. The campaign lasted several years where ACCES was in dialogue with public authorities.


The 20th of May 2015 was the "Día sin música" (Day Without Music) in Spain: a day where venues closed down and artists did not perform to raise awareness on the VAT increase.


In June 2017, the music sector suceeded in making their voice heard as government decreased VAT on concert tickets back to 10%. 

Día Sin Música

ACCES protesting for Día Sin Música

The venue Hell Dorado "closed because of VAT"

Spanish artists campaigning for Día Sin Música


Armando Ruah - ACCES