Golfers defeated over VAT on fees

Four golf clubs have lost their fight to waive VAT charges on ‘green fees’ paid by non-members to use their courses, after a VAT tribunal rejected an appeal.

The Cumbria-based clubs, led by Keswick Golf Club, have provided use of their courses to non-members in return for a one-off fee. The club, together with three others in Silloth on Solway, Carlisle and Grange-over-Sands, said EC law exempted them from paying VAT on these fees.

The clubs pinned their hopes on the belief that Customs & Excise had misinterpreted an aspect of EC law, which stated ‘certain’ services closely linked to sport or physical education supplied by a non-profit making organisation would be VAT-exempt.

Each golf club admitted there was an element of profit in charging green fees, but said that as they were rural clubs they were not in direct competition with any commercial enterprises in the area. The tribunal disagreed, however, and found against the clubs.

The bid was the brainchild of Ian Fleming, group VAT specialist at Armstrong Watson & Co, who has also been a member of Keswick Golf Club for 19 years. He said: ‘This is another example of the difference between EC legislation and Customs & Excise practice.’

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