Golf Club VAT Decision Still in the Long Grass

The First Tier Tax Tribunal in the Bridport & West Dorset Golf Club VAT case released its decision in June last year finding in the golf club’s favour that visiting non members’ green fees were VAT exempt.

With many golf clubs having submitted sizeable protective claims (some going back to VAT periods in 1990), HMRC appealed the case to the Upper Tier Tribunal on the grounds that the Tribunal had erred in interpreting EU law and that where clubs that run membership schemes make charges to non-members for the use of certain sporting facilities, such as green fees, the charges are standard rated.

The Upper Tribunal appeal was heard last month and the Judge in the case has decided to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) as essentially the points at issue concerned the interpretation of EU law and its implementation in the UK.

Whilst this means that VAT reclaims submitted on behalf of golf clubs all over the UK are still very much alive, any final decision will now be delayed until the ECJ considers the case which could take at least a year or more.

In the meantime golf clubs should to continue to charge VAT on visitors’ fees; however there are still opportunities to make protective claims for VAT charged on visitor income paid in the last four years.

Further updates will be released on the Chiene + Tait website but if your golf club has not made a claim yet, or you would like to discuss these issues in more detail, please contact Iain Masterton in our VAT Team on 0131 558 5800 or email iain.masterton@chiene.co.uk.