Change of Spanish General Tax Directorate’s approach to VAT taxation of multi-purpose vouchers in line with Council Directive (EU) 2016/1065. Binding tax ruling of October 26, 2016


The General Tax Directorate (DGT) maintained to date a criterion of VAT taxation, regarding the marketing and distribution of vouchers that entitle the holder to receive goods or services, not identified as they are of different nature, according to which such delivery of vouchers constituted advance payments not subject to VAT, since related to supplies of goods or services which are not clearly identified.

In addition, the DGT considered that the intermediation in the marketing of these vouchers was equivalent to an intermediation of means of payment, exempt from VAT by article 20.One.18º, corresponding to the so-called exempt financial transactions.

However, as the DGT itself acknowledges, the absence of explicit regulation on the VAT treatment of deliveries of these “multi-purpose” vouchers led each Member State to propose different solutions with regard to marketing and intermediation in distribution, based on the case law of the European Court of Justice. However, with the publication on 1 of July of Council Directive 2016/1065, a definitive regulation was established for the sale of univalent or multipurpose vouchers, the measures of which must be implemented by Member States before 1st, January 2019.

Now, with the new consultation submitted to the DGT by a “multipurpose” voucher trading company, the administrative body changes the criteria to adapt it to the new regulation which, while not yet mandatory, allows to establish a new criterion in the treatment of these operations.

According to the Directive, as already stated by the DGT, the delivery of a multipurpose voucher does not determine its subjection to VAT, since it is not known what services will be provided at the time, but will be the delivery of the good or provision of the underlying service the operation subject to VAT. However, it is necessary to distinguish those cases in which the voucher is distributed by a subject other than the one who performs the subsequent delivery of goods or service in which case the transaction must be considered according to its nature, such as marketing, promotion or distribution, which will be subject to VAT. But in any case cannot be an intermediation service in means of payment, such as initially considered by the DGT exempt from VAT, based on the definition of the voucher established by the Directive.

Therefore, the sale of a multipurpose voucher in its own name will constitute a distribution or promotion service subject to VAT.

But, what is the tax base of such distribution operation? The Directive does not establish any rules in this respect, so the DGT establishes its own criterion which considers that the tax base of this operation should be determined by a margin system. In this regard, the amount paid by the purchaser of the voucher cannot be the tax base of this distribution operation since that amount is equivalent to the consideration for the delivery of underlying goods or services, so it is the taxable base of such deliveries, thus the tax base of the distribution or promotion operation should be the difference, including VAT, between the effective sale price of the voucher and its acquisition value.

A copy of the Binding tax ruling number V4588-2016 is attached.

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