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Good News For Shooting Syndicates


Julie Butler - Expert Author

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Good News For Shooting Syndicates

16 July 2014

It can be argued that the membership of a golf club is very similar to the membership of a shooting syndicate and therefore the shooting industry has closely scrutinised the long-running case involving Bridport and West Dorset Golf Club and their attempts to try and ensure that non-members of the club, ie visitors to the golf club or non-members to the shooting syndicate - those who just come and “take a day”, would not have to have VAT charged on the supply.

It is a well-known fact that most of those who can afford a day’s shooting feel that they contribute very heavily to the UK tax system and then to have to pay VAT on their days shoot has therefore been causing lots of aggravation. So the Bridport case was one of significant interest. It is important that we look at the details of the case so we can check that it really does apply to a shooting syndicate, and that the set up as proper membership with the correct qualification for a sport has been achieved.

The long running saga

The taxpayer, Bridport and West Dorset Golf Club, is a private, non-profit making golf club. For several years, the club accounted for VAT on its green fee income, ie fees paid by visiting non-members, but in 2009 it claimed a repayment of the VAT on the basis that these fees were exempt under article 132(1)(m) of the EC VAT directive. Article 132(1)(m) requires member states to exempt “certain services closely linked to sport”. Articles 133 and 134 provide some restrictions on the scope of this exemption. In the UK, VATA 1994, Sch 9 group 10 item 3 provides that, where the supplier operates a membership scheme, supplies to non-members are not exempt.

Bridport Golf Club commenced by taking this case to what is known as a First-tier Tribunal. This body allowed Bridport’s claim to not have to charge non-members or visitors VAT. Not content with this ruling, HMRC appealed to the Upper Tribunal, who in turn, referred the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU for a preliminary ruling.

Exemption for non-members

The European court ruled that the exemption in article 132(1)(m) should apply to fees charged to visiting non-members, although the club was not obliged to pass on the saving to players. Thus the UK legislation was not compatible with its EU counterpart. The judgement confirms the view of KPMG, whose legal services team handled the litigation, that Sch 9 group 10 item 3, under which green fees paid by non-members were taxed at the standard rate of VAT was incorrect.

Item 3, Group 10, Schedule 9, Value Added Tax Act 1994 (VATA), exempts sports supplies by ‘eligible bodies’ to participants, but, where the body operates a membership scheme, the exemption is limited under its provisions to supplies to members, thus excluding supplies to non-members (which are thus taxable).

Quite interestingly since this case the group 10 exemption has come under the microscope for the Bridge case which was checking whether it considered that the game of Bridge was actually a sport. This Tribunal case failed but it is understood this decision will be appealed.

There is no specific sanction for this non-member exclusion in the Principal VAT Directive (PVD), but HMRC has claimed that the PVD does provide a basis for such a restriction by not allowing the exemption to apply to services which are entered into merely to raise money for the organisation and which may thus distort competition with non-qualifying bodies.

The conclusion of the Tribunal was that non-members can qualify for the exemption from the VAT charge. They did refer to the CJEU case C-495/12. The group 10 exemption was meant to encourage sport by not charging VAT and it is pleasing to note that the Bridport case has succeeded to encourage sport in this way. Various shooting clubs and syndicates can also enjoy this VAT exemption when providing days for non-members.

If anyone would like to find out more about the formation of a shooting members club or syndicate then do not hesitate to contact the writer.

Revenue & Customs brief 25/14 provides an update on how HMRC will deal with repayment claims after the decision by the Court of Justice of the EU in Bridport & West Dorset Golf Club (C-495/12) in December 2013. A summary of the brief follows

As a result of the judgement, HMRC agree that supplies of sporting services to members and non-members of non-profit making sports clubs are exempt from VAT. This is provided that the services are closely linked and essential to sport and are made to persons taking part in sport. HMRC will legislate by 1 January 2015 to reflect this.

All claims will have to be adjusted to reflect any over-claim of input tax by application of their partial exemption and/or capital goods scheme calculations. Claims should be sent to: VAT Bridport Claims SO483, PO Box 200, Bootle, L69 9AH.

About the Author

Supplied by Julie Butler F.C.A. Butler & Co, Bennett House, The Dean, Alresford, Hampshire, SO24 9BH.  Tel: 01962 735544.  Email;, Website;

Julie Butler F.C.A. is the author of Tax Planning for Farm and Land Diversification (Bloomsbury Professional), Equine Tax Planning ISBN: 0406966540, and Stanley: Taxation of Farmers and Landowners (LexisNexis).

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2014-07-21 09:07:29 in Tax Articles

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