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Organising Events - VAT special place of supply rules

Information provided on 02/04/24 by 

Phil Salmon, Partner and Ollie Noaks

DDI: +44 20 7969 5611 | M: +44 7515 795202 | F: +44 20 7969 5600 | E:

Haysmacintyre LLP, 10 Queen Street Place, London EC4R 1AG

Organising Events - VAT special place of supply rules

The concept of the “place of supply” is a fundamental part of the VAT legislation. Quite simply it exists to determine where something is supplied for VAT purposes. That matters because if it is supplied outside the UK’s VAT jurisdiction then it cannot be subject to UK VAT but may be subject to VAT or a VAT equivalent in another country’s jurisdiction.

The place of supply rules differ for different types of supply, and they can also differ when the supply is made to a private individual (B2C) or a business (B2B).

So what is an “event”? In their publications, HMRC characterise these as “a gathering of people to watch or take part in an activity for a short or limited time rather than an ongoing basis” which is rather broad, but does highlight an important distinction between short term events and longer term supplies; for example a single day symposium versus a multi-day or week course, with the VAT treatment of these two potential supplies differing as a result.


When services are supplied to other businesses (e.g. sole traders, partnerships or companies), this is a “Business-to-Business” (B2B) supply. This also applies if services are supplied to a charity that is funded by means other than just donations or grants (i.e. one which has business activities). A VAT registration number would be a good indicator of this.

The general rule when supplying services on this basis is that (for VAT purposes) these will be deemed to be provided where the recipient is located.

However, supplies of admission to cultural, educational, entertainment and similar events (such as conferences), are subject to special rules and are instead deemed to be supplied in the country where that event takes place.

The meaning of the term “admission” here is very specific and can be thought of as the supply of a right of entry to attend an event.

This special rule also extends to any services provided which are ancillary to this supply of admission, such as the provision of cloakroom services. Such ancillary services provided to event attendees may be subject to a separate fee but would still need to be directly connected to the right of admission.

However, this “admission related” rule does not apply to any service of arranging the supplies of a right of admission or organising an event like a conference (meaning any booking fee charged by a third party will be subject to the general rule mentioned above).

For example, if a UK-headquartered international scientific institution were to organise a conference in Paris to discuss the latest developments in the field, selling tickets to its members to allow them attend this, then this would be a supply deemed to take place in France for VAT purposes and would require the Institution to consider its VAT registration and reporting obligations in France. But, if the Institution contracted with a UK conference organiser to put on the conference then this would be a B2B supply to a UK entity and the conference organiser would charge UK VAT.

A conference organiser will therefore need to be aware of where their customer belongs for VAT purposes, but if they have also agreed to deal with ticket sales to delegates, then they will also need to be aware of the rules relating to admission to the event.

The rule relating to admission can also extend to supplies of stands and physical space at an event and catering. As regards catering the place of supply is where the catering takes place. As regards the place of supply of stand space is also where the conference is held, but only where all that is supplied is the provision of a site for a stand, e.g. Row B, stand 12.

Where the provision of the exhibition or stand space is part of a package, including, e.g. advertising, connection to an electricity supply, catering for the exhibitors then this falls under the general B2B rule and is supplied where the exhibitor belongs.

On the face of it the rules determining where a conference organiser’s own supplies are made is simple, they are supplied where their customer belongs. But this is not so simple where the customer is a multi-national organisation. The rules determining where someone belongs say that if an entity has a business or fixed establishment in one country only, then they belong in that country. If they have no business or fixed establishment, i.e. they are a “Brass Plate” entity only then they belong where there usual place of residence is, which for a company would be where they are incorporated.

If, however, they have business or fixed establishments in more than one country then they belong in the country most closely connect with the supply concerned. For example if you are arranging a trade show for BMW, but you are dealing with staff based in the UK, the conference is in the UK, you are paid by BMW UK, then BMW belong for these purposes in the UK, even though BMW is a German company. The position is even more clear cut if you contract with BMW UK which is a separate UK limited company.

But if as a conference organiser you are also dealing with the provision of catering for which separate charges are made or selling exhibition spaces or tickets for delegates on behalf of your customer, then the position can become more complicated.

You may wish to ensure that if you are asked to deal with these, then you contract to do so only as a disclosed agent of your customer and that they are responsible for determining the VAT liability of such things as ticket sales, etc and instructing you of what to charge. This would mean that if the tickets are subject to VAT in another country, then it would be their responsibility to register and account for local VAT.

If this is not possible then you may need to take VAT advice specific to the jurisdiction where the event is being held.


When services are supplied to individual customers who are not in business themselves, the VAT rules differ again.

Supplies are said to be made on a “Business-to-Consumer” (B2C) basis; with this including supplies made to organisations not having business activities of their own (such as government departments and some charities).

The general rule when supplying services on such a basis is that these are deemed to be supplied where the Supplier is located. But again, there are exceptions to this general B2C rule.

Most important to event organisers is the special rule applying if individual customers are supplied with services relating to “cultural, artistic, sporting, scientific, educational or entertainment activities” (or similar activities), which comes into scope where such customers are supplied with a right to attend such an event.

In these cases, for VAT purposes, the supply is deemed to be made in the Country where the activities are physically carried out.

This is not limited purely to the supply of the right of admission, as is the case for supplies of such services on a B2B basis.

For example, if a French entertainer is booked to appear at a private function in the UK, they will be deemed to be making a supply here and will need to consider their UK VAT registration and reporting obligations.

Of particular importance is that the supply does not necessarily have to be in respect of a short-term event for the place of supply to be where the event is. To return to the previous example of a UK-headquartered international scientific institution; if it were to offer an educational course provided in a classroom over the course of several weeks, the place of supply is unlikely to be where the course is held for the purposes of the B2B rules but could well be for the purposes of the B2C rule.

Care needs to be taken in such cases as it is not always evident where such supplies are being carried out. For example, case law has held that a non-UK University sending its students on courses in the UK was not making a UK supply for VAT purposes, despite the students physically performing their studies here.

It is, of course, less likely that a conference organiser will be supplying services on a B2C basis but do bear in mind that this does extend to government Departments and certain charities which are not engaged in carrying out business activities.

Electronic Supplies

The rules discussed above apply if a conference is hosted in the traditional sense, with delegates physically coming together at a single location, but what happens if a conference is hosted online where the delegates can join and participate over the internet?

Broadly speaking, if the attendees of an e-event can comment or otherwise interact with the host, for example over a chat function, video link, or VOIP; then the supply of admission to the e-event will follow the normal general rules for either B2B or B2C supplies as set out above:

B2B supplies will be deemed as supplied where the Customer is located.

B2C supplies will be deemed as supplied where the Supplier is located.

But, if there is no ability for the attendees to participate in a live conference, or if a recording of a conference is sold separately for digital download, then its supply on a B2C basis will be subject to the special rules for electronically supplied services. This will mean the supply is deemed as taking place where the delegate is located for VAT purposes.

This in turn can create an obligation to either a register for local VAT where the delegates are located; or register via the “mini one stop shop” (MOSS) service if the delegates are located in the EU.

From 2025 the EU has proposed amendments to its VAT rules, so that all webinars, even those with active delegate participation, will be treated as supplied where the Customer is located. When these are made to individual customers this will again create an obligation to either a register for local VAT where the delegates are located, or else make use of MOSS. This will be an important change, since it will represent a divergence from existing UK law and may result in such supplies being subject to double-taxation if there is no similar update to UK legislation.

Conference organisers will again need to be aware of the risks these complexities can bring and, where possible, try to shift the risk relating to VAT compliance onto their customers.