HMRC calls for extra time in Spot the Ball legal battle

THE £97m VAT battle between HMRC and sports betting company Sportech rages on, with the government department set to go to the Supreme Court to challenge the Court of Appeal’s unanimous decision in favour of Sportech.

In May, Sportech won a Court of Appeal battle against HMRC over £97m worth of wrongly-applied VAT.

However, Sportech has been informed that HMRC has now applied directly to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s unanimous judgment.

Sportech will file its Notice of Objection to such application by next Monday, and has been advised that it should expect to hear by the autumn whether HMRC has been granted the right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Commenting on the Court of Appeal’s decision, a HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC is disappointed with the decision and we are carefully considering next steps.”

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.

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