French Equestrians Protest Tax Law Change

French Equestrians Protest Tax Law Change

French equestrians are gathering by the tens of thousands to protest against the tax law change using signs such as this one from CREIF.

Photo: CREIF

French equestrians are gathering by the tens of thousands to protest against a tax law change which could threaten the lives of 80,000 horses and put more than 6,000 equine industry employees out of work.

At a time when Europe is still climbing out of the effects of the 2008 economic crisis, the modified law would increase the value-added tax (VAT) on equestrian activities from the current 7% to 20%, according to Florence Ciucci, general delegate for the Regional Equitation Committee of Ile de France Greater Paris area (CREIF). The new rate is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Currently, VAT across Europe is 20% for most industries, although certain sectors have benefited from reduced rates, such as basic food products and livestock. In France, the VAT for equestrian activities has had its reduced rate of 7% for the past 10 years. It is the only European country to have a reduced VAT rate for equestrian activities, and in June 2012 the high court of the European Union ruled that France did not have the right to apply a reduced TVA to equestrian activities.

The 13% tax increase would result in massive economic losses to the industry and would force tens of thousands of horse owners—including riding centers—to reduce the size of their herds or sell out altogether, Ciucci said. The country’s widely celebrated “Paris Horse Exposition,” currently in progress in the outskirts of Paris, has become a stage for many of the industry’s actors to speak out against what they call “the equitax.”

“For many equestrian centers, this kind of tax hike is going to prove fatal,” said the French Equestrian Federation’s (FFE) president Serge Lecomte during a speech at the entrance to the Paris Horse Exposition last Monday.

More than 10,000 protestors and nearly 1,000 horses and ponies marched through Paris on Nov. 24 in protest. Some even marched with guillotines. On the morning of Dec. 2, protestors organized “Operation Snail,” causing major traffic jams on most highways leading into Paris.

Combined with the French government’s new laws regarding school hours, which will increase the number of days French schoolchildren are in the classroom from four to five, the tax increase could topple as many as 30% of riding schools, as parents will no longer be able to afford the classes, or the classes will no longer fit their schedules, Ciucci said.

Economic studies suggest that the 20% VAT would result in the closing of 2,000 of France’s 7,000 equestrian centers, 6,000 lay-offs, and 80,000 horses euthanized or sent to slaughter, according to statistics provided on the CREIF website.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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