Norwich woman leading national fight against 'devastating' dance tax
- Credit: Dennis Briggs Photography
A Norfolk dance instructor is leading a campaign against a national 'dance tax' which threatens the future of the industry.
Anna Cook has run a franchise business in Norwich through Ceroc, the largest dance organisation in the UK, since 2009 – but is now worried about the future of her firm.
She and other franchisees were originally exempt from VAT due to its status as a learning facility. This position was validated in 2017 after Ceroc won a landmark court case which blocked Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) from introducing new charges.
However, this has recently been overturned on appeal – a ruling which Ceroc's director Robert Thompson said has "the potential to devastate businesses and livelihoods".
Mrs Cook said: "When I set up my business, I was informed by my accountants that I did not need to be VAT registered. Then, in November 2016, I received a phone call from HMRC querying why I had not been paying VAT.
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"Since then it's been a very stressful four and a half years, fighting this battle with them over whether the teaching of dance is eligible for the VAT exemption.
"It has affected mine and my children's lives immensely. If I can't win the appeal, it's not just my business that will be affected – it has far-reaching consequences for dance teachers and all sort of other dance organisations that rely on this exemption."
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The firm now intends to contest the ruling in the Court of Appeal, and has already raised the £50,000 fee required.
It could affect teachers of dance from ballroom to Zumba across Norfolk and the rest of the UK, some of whom could be forced to repay up to a decade's worth of taxes to HMRC if the appeal fails.
Meanwhile, members would see price hikes of 20pc or more for classes, which could see many more tutors go out of business and availability of classes become much more scarce.
The VAT change will affect social and entertainment classes, though those who provide dance teaching will still be exempt as they will come under education.
Mr Thompson added: "At a time when physical exercise is a lifeline for millions around the UK due to the pandemic, HMRC’s new ruling has the potential to devastate businesses and livelihoods, not only of dancers like Ceroc but all manner of instructors and trainers.
"We will make our case for VAT exemption, proving once again the educational, physical and mental value of the work that we, and thousands of others, perform all year round, for people of all ages."