AGCO makes application to throw out EU VAT rebate ruling
The Association of Golf Course Owners (AGCO) has applied to the UK’s Upper Tribunal, Tax and Chancery Chamber to provide information that the EU ruling that VAT must not be applied to private members’ golf clubs’ green fees was based on flawed evidence.
If AGCO, which represents proprietary golf clubs, is successful, it could result in further delays to hundreds of private members’ (not-for-profit) golf clubs receiving hundreds of millions of pounds of VAT rebates, or even lead to a change in law.
However, one manager of a golf club that has made a claim has said AGCO is unlikely to be successful.
AGCO has also applied to the European Commission to take infraction proceedings over VAT in sport, after it carried out an investigation on green fees that were used at the lead golf club in the case, Bridport and West Dorset, throughout 2008 and 2009.
AGCO said it deployed a ‘team of amateur detectives’ who examined golfing events at Bridport and West Dorset between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009. They found that 47 events were sold to corporate bodies or societies, and several green fees were sold to individuals through booking agents.
“AGCO have rumbled the whole Bridport claim and we can report it was based on dodgy evidence to the court,” said AGCO chair Vivien Saunders.
“The legislation is all about supplies to individuals. VAT exemption for sport is for services provided by non-profit making organisations to persons, that is individuals. What KPMG hid from the court was that the £90,000 of green fees included lots of societies and corporate days – and they aren’t supplied to individuals.
“They also didn’t explain to the judge that some ‘green fees’ at golf clubs aren’t supplied by the club but by booking agents. And they certainly aren’t non-profit making organisations. This will apply to every golf club making a claim for a VAT refund on green fees.
“It’s fraud and a con. Hopefully HMRC will step in and save the country £500 million, based on this evidence.
”Personally I have endured a lot of unpleasantness from England Golf who will do anything they can to discredit AGCO. But the truth is out. We have blown the whistle.”
Over 450 golf clubs have joined with Bridport and West Dorset Golf Club to collectively claim back more than £115 million in VAT that has been spent on green fees. It is thought that several hundred other private members’ clubs have made similar, separate claims.
However, an anonymous manager of one of the clubs making a claim has said private members’ clubs should not worry about AGCO’s application.
“This is desperate stuff from Vivien and AGCO,” he said. “HMRC has previously ruled that corporate persons and unincorporated associations that take part in sport at sports’ clubs are ‘persons’ when it comes to VAT.
“This application is therefore not likely to be successful.”