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AGCO take legal action against UK Government

The Association of Golf Course Owners (AGCO) is set to take legal proceedings against the UK Government in relation to VAT in golf.

The issue is over affiliation fees English golf clubs pay to their local county associations and England Golf. On average, male members in England pay £10 to £20 a year to the bodies in order to have a recognised handicap.

As this requires members’ club structure many clubs have set up their own organisation which is affiliated to England Golf but separate from their clubs. This is where the issue lies as the golf club company pays the fee – VAT is applicable on it – even though it is exempt if paid by private members’ clubs.

Over the years there have been several battles between golf clubs and HMRC as clubs want to claim back the VAT they paid on the fees.

In the latest incident, Mr Probert said: “The HMRC Commisioners have arrived at the view that there is no legal basis, both under EU and UK law, for the treatment of affiliation fees as disbursements, principally because the fees are not incurred by the clubs in the name of specific, identifiable members and because the responsibility for payment rests with the clubs rather than with individual members.

“Many clubs have chosen not to apply the concession and have simply absorbed the fees within their own costs. Where clubs have not applied the concession there can now be no retrospective claim for overpaid output tax.”

On October 10, Vivien Saunders, chair of AGCO, wrote to every English county secretary and England Golf board member, and said: “It is now impossible for golf course owners to assist in collecting affiliation fees. The only possible way forward now is to make the fee the responsibility of the individual golfer, registering online and paying for the handicap / service if wanted.”

However, on that same day Mr McLachlin overturned Mr Probert’s comments.

AGCO has therefore written to HMRC to demand that it refers the issue to the Upper Tax Tribunal to rule on the VAT status of the affiliation fee charged to proprietary golf clubs. “In the event of any of the decisions made, which we say are wrong, are not corrected, we put you on notice that we intend to apply for judicial review of the decisions,” states AGCO.

“We have now put the HMRC on notice of our intention to apply for a judicial review of the decisions relating to VAT in golf and the distortion involved,” said Saunders.

“We have also served notice on the UK treasury solicitor that it is our intention to apply direct to the European Commission for them to take proceedings against the UK government for their failure to address this distortion.”


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