As most of you hopefully know the Association of Golf Course Owners, supported by many of you, took HMRC to a VAT tribunal last year. We got some of what we wanted. The next stage of our case is being held on Monday 16th May at 10.30 in London at the Rolls Building, which is part of the Chancery Division of the Royal Courts of Justice, for one day or part of the day. Address is The Rolls Building, Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1NL. Nearest underground is Chancery Lane. Please be there 10 a.m. for 10.30.
AGCO is again represented by tax barrister, Tim Brown, from Temple Tax Chambers. None of the 19 witnesses need to give evidence again. We are asking for a reference to the European Court of Justice or a ruling from London that the UK’s interpretation of VAT law in relation to sport is wrong. The VAT distortion simply isn’t fair. Please come along and show your support for the case. It is crucial to the whole of the proprietary golf sector.
It is very a complex piece of VAT law. Remember that the UK Government’s wonderful VAT Sports Order of 1999 means that, for example, if a sports club rents a sports hall for sport it attracts VAT of 20% (subject to a few other oddities) but if the club rents the same hall for a flower show it is VAT exempt! The law is barking and what it has stopped is proprietary clubs having licences to our members’ sections, allowing our golfers to have VAT exempt golf. The Government, HMRC and the Treasury have a totally warped idea that a members’ club taking £1 million a year in green fees to subsidise their members’ subscriptions is non-profit making – but golf course owners are all guilty of tax avoidance if we try to give our golfers VAT exempt golf.
To be clear, nothing we do will adversely affect members’ clubs. But we are battling on to fight the distortion caused (naively) by the Labour Government in 1999 and supported (stupidly) by successive governments, HMRC and the Treasury since then!
I am often asked if any proprietary club is successfully avoiding/escaping/ VAT. The answer is YES. Brampton Park in Huntingdon, owned by Stonecheck plc, has operated a successful VAT ‘escaping’ scheme since 1997. If you want to find out more about the Brampton methodology then ask Doug Poole – Chairman of the National Golf Month for May – supported by the All Party Parliamentary Golf Group and the R & A. Doug was chairman of Stonecheck plc for 6 years and at the same time Captain of Brampton Park Golf Club. Doug Poole and his fellow directors have done what no other proprietors have been allowed to do.
Stonecheck plc has a non-exclusive licence to Brampton Park – the members’ section – with the license fee linked to turnover and Stonecheck and Brampton happily sharing the premises, sharing directors and officers. Golf at Stonecheck’s premises is VAT exempt. Oh and the Brampton Park members’ section is even registered as CASC to get 80% business rate relief on the premises shared with Stonecheck plc. For some reason HMRC daren’t challenge this but they won’t give the green light for everyone else to do the same. Those individuals – rather than a plc – who have tried the same methods have been attacked by HMRC, who are still trying to bankrupt owners, and succeeding in some cases.
Our case is moving forwards. Can we all do what Stonecheck plc and Brampton Park are doing? Is the UK’s interpretation of European VAT law correct? Please be there at the Rolls Building on May 16th at 10 a.m. ready for 10.30 if possible. Let me know if you are coming by email or phone. Vivien