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Racing rallies against VAT increases

FRENCH racing will continue its high-profile campaign against a steep rise in VAT payments, when jockeys and stable staff don red armbands for Friday's meeting at Deauville.

Opponents of the 12.5 per cent increase claim horses in training could drop by 1,500 as the new measures bite, and France Galop president Bertrand Belinguier has reaffirmed his commitment to ease the tax burden on the sport.

Red armbands have become a symbol of resistance for an umbrella group of racing and breeding organisations who are fighting a European Court of Justice ruling that determined horse-related activities will be ineligible for a special low rate of VAT reserved for agriculture.

Under the threat of heavy fines from the European Commission in Brussels, the French government raised the VAT rate applicable to transactions by breeders and owners to 19.5 per cent, from seven per cent, on January 1.

In an open letter to the Ministers of Agriculture and the Budget, the 'Brassards Rouges' (Red Armband) group warns that such an increase would have repercussions for many racing operations.

"We must expect the retirement of 1,500 racehorses and 2,000 trotters," said the communique. "This decrease will cause the disappearance of numerous small trainers and breeders and unemployment for around 1,000 stable and stud employees."

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