Golf clubs: Are “green fees” charged to non-members liable to VAT?

On 24 August 2012, HMRC issued Brief 25/12 confirming their current policy that VAT should be charged by golf clubs on the “green fees” charged to non-members, despite HMRC’s recent defeat before the First-tier Tribunal.

In The Bridport and West Dorset Golf Club Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners [UKFTT 354 (TC)], published on 1 June 2011, the First-tier Tribunal confirmed that the charges made by the non-profit-making members golf club to visiting non-members in return for the right to play golf (known as “green fees”) were exempt from VAT.

HMRC appealed to the Upper Tribunal who decided to make a reference to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for clarification.  The clarification from the ECJ is not expected until mid-2013.

Meanwhile, HMRC are sticking defiantly to their guns:

“Decisions of the First-tier Tribunal are binding only on the parties to the decision. Consequently, we do not propose to pay other claims already submitted and we are not inviting new claims in the wake of this decision.  Any claims that are submitted will be rejected.”

Of course, HMRC might well lose their appeal, so it is recommended that golf clubs should make protective claims to HMRC for overpaid VAT on green fees as soon as possible.  Indeed, 458 golf clubs already have such claims ‘stood behind’ this case, so do make sure your clients “join the club”!

For the latest and further information and for help with the VAT rules on golf clubs and green fees, making a voluntary disclosure to HMRC for overpaid VAT and having the case stood behind The Bridport and West Dorset Golf Club Ltd, please contact the TaxDesk on 0845 4900 509 and ask for Vaughn Chown (VAT) or Kevin Hall (VAT).