Skip links

VAT compliance in the events industry: How to prepare for a change

As any event organiser will know, hosting a successful event is an intricate process with many moving parts. Managing events industry VAT compliance is no less complicated. Compliance requires careful consideration of the specific rules relating to events, as well as more general VAT questions. 

In the EU, there are specific rules pertaining to conferences and events. For example, ticket sales are subject to VAT in the country in which the event is located, even if those tickets were purchased outside of that country.

The upshot is that a company hosting an event in an EU state will in most instances need to register for VAT in that country.

Let’s consider some of the nuances of the MICE space. We’ll analyse how events companies can remain fully compliant, even when conditions on the ground change. 

Events, VAT and the meaning of admission 

As so often in the world of tax regulation, even seemingly simple definitions can be surprisingly complicated

The European rules defining ‘admission to an event’ have not been unanimously agreed, and there is room for ambiguity. 

For example, if a conference exceeds a specified duration, it may not constitute an ‘event’ according to EU VAT regulations. That will affect your attendant VAT obligation.

There is also potential for ambiguity around equipment hire and related expenses. In these cases the VAT obligation may vary on a country-by-country basis. 

When is a conference not a conference?

The Covid pandemic severely disrupted through the events industry.

Fortunately, new technology has made it possible for people to connect, even at scale, at a time of social distancing.

Many events companies took advantage of the technology by pivoting from real life events to digital seminars and virtual conferences.

In some essential sense, virtual conferences and ‘real world’ conferences are equivalent. Delegates from around the world meet up to share information. Registration may be required, tickets may be sold.

However, from a VAT perspective, defining virtual conferences is more complicated.    

Digital Services v Events

Once a business, even one strictly focused on events and conferences, starts running online events and charging for virtual conferences and webinars, the question raised is have they effectively drifted into digital services? 

The VAT compliance regulations relating to digital services and conferences are quite different, and it’s important to gain clarity on the issue. 

In addition, conferences-at-a-distance raise other VAT issues. If you’re selling merchandise at virtual events via an online store, that raises complex compliance issues

With the demonstrable success of online events, it’s likely that the events industry will seek to incorporate virtual conferences as part of normal operations in the future, so understanding the fall VAT compliance picture is essential to forward planning.

Planning for all VAT event-ualities

Vatglobal brings deep VAT expertise to the MICE industry.  

As global VAT experts, Vatglobal looks beyond narrow sector-specific regulations.  We help businesses adapt to changing conditions, even amid considerable uncertainty. 

Get in touch with Vatglobal to ensure you have access to the technology and expertise you need to keep ahead of the dynamic developments in the events industry. 


Get a quote