To All Proprietary Clubs

It is complex. We started this in mid 2014 and have been through 2 hearings in the First Tier Tribunal, 2 more in the Upper Tribunal, a Judicial Review and at last we are in the High Court. We could now do with some financial support from all golf owners – anything from £100 to £1000 to back our efforts and pay for the barrister, Tim Brown. Cheques to Association of Golf Course Owners at above address or BACS to sort code:
40-18-02 a/c 00725226 ..... please!
 
The overall aim is to get the VAT distortion re-considered and get Europe to consider rulings in the UK which have collapsed our businesses.
 
It is very complex. Trust us please. The case is in the name of Abbotsley Ltd, a second is a partnership and the third, and most crucial, is the members’ section club at Abbotsley Ltd – Cromwell Golf Club. We all have to have these members’ clubs. It’s really about the status of Cromwell Club and your members’ sections. Can the golfers enjoy VAT exempt golf or can’t they?
 
  The case uses the vehicle of the wretched affiliation fees your businesses pay to England Golf, Wales, counties etc. We say they are standard rated and we want our VAT back. Here’s the dilemma – the judge said the Cromwell Club was a non-profit club – so fees from EG to it should be VAT exempt. But HMRC says the Cromwell (and all your members’ sections – forced on us by EG with committees etc) are VAT avoidance vehicles and they cannot make VAT free charges to their golfers. Strange as the Cromwell was set up in 1976 before VAT was dreamed of. Just so you know, a member of a huge, wealthy proprietary club, gave evidence to the First Court that the membership sub had an add-on of £270 VAT exempt for members’ committees, bringing in that business a whopping £400,000 VAT exempt. We’d like to know whether we can all do the same and what can we spend it on.
 
  The first aim is to get back the VAT on the affiliation fees you have paid out to EG etc. That could be 1/6 of everything some of you have forked out. The second aim is to get the affiliation fee monkey off our backs and make sure golfers pay direct to EG and counties if they want it so we aren’t responsible. Yes, it was us who forced HMRC to change the rules so that if we charge the affiliation fees to golfers our golfers have to pay VAT and members’ clubs don’t. It demonstrates the distortion even better. The third aim is to get a clear ruling to stop members’ clubs getting even more VAT back, by trying to say corporate memberships are VAT exempt and also to stop their VAT refunds on their corporate days and societies.
 
  But fourthly – and that is where it is complex and technical – we are hoping – and we think now realistically – that we may be able to get this referred to Europe to reconsider the VAT distortion the UK forced on us first in 1993 and then in 1999. That’s the main aim – get to Europe and let them see how the UK has collapsed proprietary golf.
 
Most small proprietary golf businesses have been driven to their knees by the members’ clubs getting their huge VAT refunds. KPMG succeeded in that. They won the right for the members’ clubs to keep the refunds and not hand the refund back the green fee players. That’s over £450 million plus interest. Your next door members’ club has probably recovered £250k to £1million. And that’s what’s helping collapse your business, competing with them. When AGCO raised this as a case to Europe HMRC and the UK Treasury said such refunds aren’t taking place. It was a bare faced lie in which they told Europe that refunds are only made if the club repays the golfer. That’s what we are up against. And that’s what those of you supporting the work of KPMG are assisting! With AGCO there isn’t an accountant or solicitor milking it from head, tail and under-carriage. It’s all free except the barrister’s fee. After 4 tax cases and a judicial review we are there. For God’s sake, wake up, cough up .... or shut up, plough up and wither and die with the rest of small proprietary clubs! NOW!
 
  At last AGCO is there in the Tax and Chancery Division of the Upper Tribunal with High Court judges. The case is in the name of Abbotsley Ltd; we don’t stand to get any VAT back. We are the vehicle for doing it. In 1996 Abbotsley had an arrangement with a license to its members’ club allowing the golfers to have VAT free golf like members’ clubs. HMRC stopped everyone doing that in 1999. But Stoke-by-Nayland kept on doing it and HMRC only challenged them recently and LOST. You’ll wonder why the rest of us were stopped in our tracks. HMRC has appealed that and it goes to court this year.  If you can come to London next week email me Friday 18th to get day/time.
 
The icing on the cake would be if we can get the UK’s VAT on sport declared unlawful – but dream on. Please support the case and the barrister’s fees. Cheques please, from £100 to £1,000 to Association of Golf Course Owners at above address or:
BACS 40-18-02 a/c 00725226.  - Vivien