Story from "The Telegraph"
Audrey Cheruvier, the 28-year-old director of the Fleur Estelle Belly Dance School, had believed her company was exempt from paying the tax because it was taught as a sport
A belly dancer who has performed for royalty has been ordered to pay more than £50,000 in tax, after a judge ruled her classes were recreational rather than educational.
Audrey Cheruvier, the 28-year-old director of the Fleur Estelle Belly Dance School, had believed her company was exempt from paying the tax because it was taught as a sport.
Her representatives had argued that belly dancing was a “serious and systematic course of study” and that she should be given the same VAT exemption as tutors in more mainstream subjects.
Rules outlined by HMRC dictate that registered businesses supplying certain sporting and physical education activities, including dance, can be exempt from VAT.
Judge Edward Sadler, sitting at a tribunal, has now ruled the tuition she provides is “recreational”, rather than “educational”. She will pay £52,921 in tax, for income dating back to June 2009.
The dancer said she “accepted and respected” the decision, claiming that she had already offered to pay back the money.
She added that she had been “naive” in trusting advice from professionals about the exemption.
The tribunal heard the dancer has given private performances to the royal families of several Middle Eastern states and undertook years of training before opening the dance school in London.
She said: “I was told that dance was one of several categories exempt from the tax. We teach a syllabus, follow a curriculum, and to me it’s absurd to think it isn’t dance.
“I trusted that it was right and was advised to appeal against paying the tax.”
Judge Sadler described her as an “entirely credible witness” but agreed with HMRC that belly dancing tuition is subject to VAT as it is not “ordinarily taught” in schools or universities.
He added that he “did not in any way wish to detract from, or cast doubt upon, the seriousness with which Miss Cheruvier both pursues her chosen field and teaches it to others”.
However, there was no external examining board to prescribe standards, or a syllabus, for belly dancing.