Bridge is neither sport nor culture, so you have to pay VAT

Secretary of State for Finance Vijlbrief does not see any possibilities to exempt thinking sports such as bridge, chess, checkers and go from VAT. Clubs and federations have to pay this tax because the European Court of Justice ruled two years ago that bridge is not a sport because of the lack of physical activity. That is why the sport is not eligible for the exemption that applies to other sports.

The case was brought by the bridgebond in Great Britain, where clubs have had to pay VAT for some time. The union thinks it is unfair, but the Court ruled differently. Without exercise and sweat, it is not a sport.

Because this is a ruling of the European Court of Justice, it also applies to other EU countries. In the Netherlands, bridge, chess, checkers and go were considered sports. The think sports organisations fear that they will lose 1 million euros a year as a result of the ruling.

Cultural exemption?

Vijlbriefs predecessor Snel promised that he would look into whether the mind games could fall under the cultural VAT exemption. This happened after the House of Representatives drew attention to the situation of this branch of sport.

The State Secretary now writes to the House of Representatives that the thought sports bridge, chess, checkers and go should then fall under the immaterial cultural heritage of the Netherlands. In other words: they should be part of the culture of our country.

“I have found insufficient indications that in our society the aforementioned thought sports are associated with cultural heritage”, writes Vijlbrief. That means that they should simply be subject to VAT.

The law will be amended and the thinking sports will be subject to VAT as of 1 January 2022. Stakeholders will then have enough time to prepare, according to the State Secretary.