The UK Golf Course Owners has put out a statement suggesting that they are making huge inroads into the possible changes to VAT regulations by meeting with the Treasury. Most of the background work to this has been done by AGCO over a 22 year period. Andrew Sutcliffe was a director of AGCO and much of the work he used was developed by AGCO, including counsel’s opinion and considerable very detailed work. Andrew wanted to stay close to England Golf because of his funding for coaching from them. We question the judgment of the UKGCOA in using KPMG who are acting in total opposition to the proprietary sector in the Bridport case. That is one in which the members’ clubs are in total claiming back some £500 million of VAT on certain green fees.
AGCO’s work has been outlined in Hansard and also in government material in Northern Ireland. As chairman of AGCO I have twice been called in recently to meet with HMRC and their experts but the content of these meetings was confidential.
In December 2013 AGCO made a claim to the European Commission asking for the Commission to take proceedings against the United Kingdom Government because we say the UK is in breach of the European VAT laws. The issue of the potential Reduced Rate for VAT for the whole of sport is in front of the European Commission in that claim. We are also claiming that the VAT Sports Order of 1999 is unlawful. This action was all done in-house by AGCO professional volunteers, with numerous clubs helping to fund counsels’ opinion.
AGCO also took an appeal against HMRC which was heard in the Royal Courts of Justice, March 23rd to 26th. The judgment on that is still awaited. That case dealt with the whole VAT distortion issue in golf and sport generally with a request that it should be referred to the European Court. The issue in this centres around the VAT treatment of affiliation fees which demonstrates the distortion. It is unfortunate that we are still waiting for that hearing.
The UKGCOA has failed to support these two actions, simply using our work and documentation. AGCO relies on donations from golf clubs, with no paid staff. The UKGCOA executive, Andy Lloyd Skinner, is paid. He became involved with this when he lost a disastrous case which HMRC took against his company. Andrew Sutcliffe similarly lost his fight against HMRC over what was deemed to be a VAT avoidance scheme.
AGCO has a State Aid claim in front of the European Commission concerning the failure of HMRC to charge corporation tax to member-owned golf clubs and a large team from AGCO clubs have a substantial process of Freedom of Information Act enquiries before the HMRC team.
Several people from AGCO are also working tirelessly on the issue of Community Amateur Sports Clubs and the 80% business rate relief given to some 475 member-owned golf clubs. By contrast England Golf is working to support and advise these clubs, which have found themselves in trouble with HMRC for failure to comply with the current regulations. It is regrettable that the UKGCOA will not work with AGCO so that the industry can move forward in unison. AGCO cannot support many of the processes taken by England Golf which so clearly are at odds with the interests of proprietary golf and the golf industry in general. UKGCOA clearly want to be part of England Golf rather than stand up for the proprietary sector.
Representatives from AGCO have attended the two major hearings relating to the VAT refunds for members’ clubs in the Bridport case and made representations over the distortion issue, which have been listened to and report officially. UKGCOA has not taken any stance on this and indeed are clients of KPMG who represent the members’ clubs in the Bridport case.