As you all know members’ clubs have claimed back VAT on green fees, in some cases right back to 1993. The judgment in the Bridport case was that VAT exemption could not be limited to membership fees. Remember how they treated subs as VAT exempt and green fees as subject to VAT. The ruling in Bridport was NOT as KPMG and England Golf kept saying that green fees are VAT exempt. The underlying VAT exemption is for services supplied to persons – in the UK ‘individuals’. AGCO clubs lobbied HMRC and MPs to ensure HMRC appealed the case an didn’t just cave in. That was AGCO’s first success. After the judgment in Europe AGCO has provided HMRC and the court system with plenty of information to explain that the figures clubs put in their accounts includes plenty of corporate days and societies, will have included food and green fees together, and there will have been considerable sums supplied through booking agents and tour operators. Just to remind you, in the original Bridport case KPMG and the accountant for Bridport who gave evidence to the Court completely hid the society and booking agent part of green fees. KPMG clearly failed to disclose this. It wasn’t an accident! So in 2011 the judge didn’t deal with this. On January 22nd 2015 the same judge, now head of the tax tribunal, announced in the High Court that the court would look at these issues of corporate days, buggies and food and drink wrapped in with golf, and the booking agent issue. The case is being set down for another 5 day hearing in June or July where the court will consider these points. Clubs being brought in on this are Wilmslow, the Glen (North Berwick) and the mighty Berkshire. The judge announced that the Berkshire is claiming over £1 million and such clubs are a special consideration Yes, the Berkshire has taken £16 million in visitors’ fees since 1990 and never paid a penny in corporation tax – pretending in every year to make losses on their £800,000 of ‘temporary members’. Can they continue to escape paying tax now they are in the public eye! As agreed with the judge HMRC has now put out an explanation of the VAT claims they will consider. Their guidance sets out in considerable detail their new understanding of corporate days, societies and agency booking. It is marvellous news for everyone in the proprietary sector. The huge VAT refund claims aren’t going to be straightforward. HMRC also makes mention of the liability for corporation tax on profits and whatever refunds are made will clearly be subject to tax, without any deductions. More than twenty of us in AGCO have worked very, very hard to get the facts of corporate days and ‘green fees’ across to HMRC, including making an applications to the Upper Tribunal. It has been a long hard struggle. As all proprietors know, England Golf, Scottish Golf, many of the counties and, sadly, the GCMA have all taken the side of members’ clubs without realising the disaster of the Bridport decision for those of us in the proprietary sector. And the sheer greed against the UK taxpayer! Remember, AGCO has our own very important case being heard in the Royal Courts of Justice, London, from 23rd to 26th March, where 23 of your fellow golf club proprietors have put in witness statements, asking for the whole VAT distortion issue to go to Europe. Please support that financially with donations direct to AGCO. Oh and we have two live cases before the European Commission and a petition to Europe all fighting our corner, All, apart from barristers; fees, done without charge by the AGCO team.
Here is the link to the HMRC information sheet so that you can read HMRC’s bulletin on Bridport. Get out the Champagne. It isn’t all over yet!
For those who would like to see the document, without following the link, HMRC Guidance for AGCO clubs. See also another gem about the Berkshire The Berkshire scam. Please send contributions to the AGCO case in March direct to AGCO, address below. or direct to – HSBC, St. Neots: Sort code 40-40-10 a/c 41472046 a/c AGCO
Vivien Saunders OBE
Abbotsley Ltd.and The Association of Golf Course Owners
Abbotsley Golf Hotel and Country Club
St. Neots Cambridgeshire PE19 6XN
Registered in England 2063798 VAT no: 455 940 232
Registered office c/o Stanes Rand, 10 Jesus Lane, Cambridge
Managing Director: Vivien Saunders OBE PhD FCMI (Solicitor – retired)
Tel: 07956 628338