Spot the claim: Sportech wins £97m in VAT battle

HMRC has lost its long-running VAT battle with sports betting company Sportech, and has just days to appeal the Court of Appeal decision or pay the company £97m.

The listed pool-betting business has had many encounters with HM Revenue & Customs in the courts over the years, regarding what it believes is wrongly-applied VAT between 1979 and 1996 on its ‘Spot the Ball’ game.

The game has been running for over 50 years and Sportech claims that it is a game of chance, not skill, arguing that it should be exempt from VAT.

Sportech, which can trace its origins back to the 1920’s, first launched its claim in 2009 and in March 2013 the betting company won a first-tier tribunal against the taxman. However, HMRC appealed and subsequently won its case in 2014.

The betting firm then appealed the case last month at the Court of Appeal, which ruled unanimously in its favour.

HMRC now has until 13 May to apply to the Court of Appeal, meaning there could be a chance that the case goes to the Supreme Court.

Ian Penrose, chief executive of Sportech, said: “Having been through the various stages of the court process over the period of time, clearly we’re very pleased [with the decision]”.

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