Effectiveness of EU VAT Treatment of Charities

Charities as such are not mentioned in the VAT Directive. However, the Directive contains “exemptions for certain activities in the public interest” and most of those activities are deemed charitable in many Member States, such as activities in the framework of medical care, welfare and social security work, education, religion, sports, and culture. In this article, the author gives an overview of the legal history of the EU VAT exemptions and discusses the position of charities whose activities may be within or outside the scope of VAT. In view of the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of these VAT exemptions, the author discusses alternative approaches, and points to developments that may affect the VAT position of charities in the future.