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Campaign launched against Dutch ticket tax hike

A full-page advert has appeared in every newspaper in the Netherlands protesting the government's plans to raise the VAT rate from 9% to 21%

By James Hanley on 03 Jun 2024

A State of Trance is the Netherlands' biggest trance music festival

A coalition of organisations in the Netherlands have launched a joint campaign against the government’s plans to raise the tax rate for the cultural and creative sector from 9% to 21%.

A full-page advert appeared in every national and regional newspaper today (3 June) with the message #nohigherebtw (nohigherVAT) on behalf of the alliance, which includes the Association of Dutch Music Venues and Festivals’ (VNPF), as well as other groups across culture, media, catering, books and sports.

It follows proposals unveiled by the country’s new right-wing government to increase the VAT rate for concert, festival, sports and museum tickets, as well as books, hotels and newspapers, by 12 percentage points from 2026. The sector contributes €26 billion (3.4%) annually to the Netherlands’ GDP and accounts for almost one in 20 jobs in the Netherlands.

A statement from the coalition reads: “The proposed increase in the VAT rate will inevitably lead to higher prices, which will put pressure on the accessibility and affordability of sports, media, books, culture and catering for the public. It affects everyone in the Netherlands in daily life and in several areas. It is an additional burden on the valuable free time, club life, curiosity and (mental) health of every Dutch person.”

The government says the increase will generate €2.2bn a year for the treasury, but campaigners say it will add 11% to the price of tickets. According to Dutch News, the measure is also the least popular of all the plans unveiled by the new coalition, with just over half of those polled opposed to the move and only 28% supporting it.

A total of 96% of respondents to a poll conducted by trade bodies Arts ’92 and The Creative Coalition said ticket prices will have to increase if the lower VAT rate is abolished, while research by economist René Goudriaan suggested the subsequent drop in visitors would most severely impact festivals (1.5 million fewer annual visits), resulting in €62.5 million less income.

“This increase in tax burden affects everyone: readers, festivalgoers, museum visitors, artists, musical fans, people who sing in choirs and play in brass bands,” says Arts ’92 director Astrid Weij. “In this way, what gives life colour and meaning takes a hit. The economy behind the creative sector is going to shrink. The effects on our prosperity, well-being and employment are negative.”

“The VAT increase is a serious setback for self-employed people and employees. Many fear forced layoffs”

“The proposed VAT increase is a blow to self-employed people and employees in the sector,” adds Thomas Drissen, director of The Creative Coalition. “It puts further pressure on the income of the makers. Many have not yet recovered from the corona years, when there was actually a professional ban. The VAT increase is a serious setback for self-employed people and employees. Many fear forced layoffs.”

Dutch live music association the VNPF has previously called on the authorities to reconsider the tax hike, warning it could have grave consequences for the domestic live music business.

“This measure makes ticket sales uncertain, leading to less investment in a sector that has already been hit disproportionately hard in recent years,” it said. “The jobs of more than 100,000 people working in this industry are also threatened.

“In addition, this VAT increase weakens the competitive position of the Dutch live music sector compared to neighbouring countries where low rates are still charged. Stages and festivals lose their offer to neighbouring countries, with all the financial consequences that entails. This policy puts the Dutch world-leading live sector at a great disadvantage.”

It continued: “Pop culture in the Netherlands is becoming less accessible, causing a broad audience to be excluded from cultural events. This makes the Netherlands less attractive for international artists, which has a negative impact on the business climate in this industry.

“The consequences extend beyond just the visitors – up-and-coming pop talent will find it even more difficult to break through and generate a sustainable income.”

Other groups to have signed up to the coalition include Dutch football association KNVB, the country’s top professional football league the Eredivisie, the Association of Theater and Concert Hall Directors (VSCD), Association of Event Makers (VVEM), the Alliance of Event Builders, the Association of Dutch Orchestras (VvNO), the Creative Industry Federation, the Culture Federation, the Pop Coalition and the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ).


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