Thursday 29 October 2015

VAT on transactions exchanging cryptocurrencies for traditional currencies and vice versa (comment on CJEU judgment 2)

The part of the judgment in which the Court held that transactions which consisted of the exchange of traditional currencies for bitcoin units and vice versa constituted the "supply of services" is relatively unremarkable. The "supply of services" and "supply of goods" are two main categories of economic activities taxable under the VAT Directive (Art. 2(1)). The Directive further provides, ‘“[s]upply of services” shall mean any transaction which does not constitute a supply of goods.’ (Art. 24(1)). Seen in this context, the notion of "supply of services" would hardly be expected to receive a narrow interpretation.
It may, however, be of interest to note that the European Court does not necessarily give the same meaning to a similar concept in different contexts. Thus, the Court once noted, "it is not necessary ... to interpret the concept of the 'provision of services' set out in the second indent of Article 5(1)(b) of Regulation No 44/2001 in the light of the definition of the concept of 'services' in the Community directives on VAT" (Falco Privatstiftung and Rabitsch (Case C-533/07) (2009)). On that reasoning, the Court interpreted the concept of the "provision of services" narrowly for the purpose of the rules for determining the jurisdiction of courts of the Member States. In a future post, I intend to discuss whether a claim in matters relating to a contract for the exchange of cryptocurrencies with traditional currencies would fall within the "provision of services" under what is now Article 7(1)(b) of the Brussels I-bis Regulation and if so, how the provision is to be applied.

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