Bridport and West Dorset Golf club has won a remarkable victory in the European courts over the charging of VAT on non-member green fees which could now result in a HMRC payout to gold clubs of around £115 million.
Green fee charges for members of a members club have been exempt from VAT for over twenty years but this exemption did not apply to non-member fees. Bridport challenged this in the European courts and now will have to wait to see if the decision is confirmed by a further sitting of the courts, which is likely to agree with the decision.
If confirmed, golf clubs will be able to claim back the relevant VAT for the last four years and there are an estimated 400 other clubs who have similar claims. The ruling will not apply to proprietary clubs (those owned privately and run for profit) as the exemptions only apply to not for profit member clubs.
HMRC have stated that any repayment should not actually benefit the club but should be paid back to the persons who paid the VAT in the first place. A decision on this will be made once the final ruling has been made.
A rare victory for sport over the tax authorities!