Germany: reference for preliminary ruling of the ECJ in regard to travel agency taxation

German Federal Financial Court (Bundesfinanzhof) filed a reference for preliminary ruling on whether the ‘special scheme for travel agents’ in Article 26 of Directive 77/388/EEC on the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States relating to turnover taxes also applies to the sale by a travel agent of opera tickets in isolation, without the provision of additional services (Case C-31/10 – Minerva Kulturreisen).Art 26 of the directive provides as follows:1. Member States shall apply value added tax to the operations of travel agents in accordance with the provisions of this Article, where the travel agents deal with customers in their own name and use the supplies and services of other taxable persons in the provision of travel facilities. This Article shall not apply to travel agents who are acting only as intermediaries and accounting for tax in accordance with Article 11 A (3) (c). In this Article travel agents include tour operators.2. All transactions performed by the travel agent in respect of a journey shall be treated as a single service supplied by the travel agent to the traveller. It shall be taxable in the Member State in which the travel agent has established his business or has a fixed establishment from which the travel agent has provided the services. The taxable amount and the price exclusive of tax, within the meaning of Article 22 (3) (b), in respect of this service shall be the travel agent’s margin, that is to say, the difference between the total amount to be paid by the traveller, exclusive of value added tax, and the actual cost to the travel agent of supplies and services provided by other taxable persons where these transactions are for the direct benefit of the traveller.3. If transactions entrusted by the travel agent to other taxable persons are performed by such persons outside the Community, the travel agent’s service shall be treated as an exempted intermediary activity under Article 15 (14). Where these transactions are performed both inside and outside the Community, only that part of the travel agent’s service relating to transactions outside the Community may be exempted.4. Tax charged to the travel agent by other taxable persons on the transactions described in paragraph 2 which are for the direct benefit of the traveller, shall not be eligible for deduction or refund in any Member State.

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