The European Court of Justice released its judgement today in the Bridport & West Dorset Golf Club case in which the taxpayer challenged the UK’s treatment of green fees charged by not-for-profit members’ clubs.
The judgement went in Bridport’s favour and this is the final decision in the Bridport case.
The issue in dispute was whether or not green fees charged to visitors should be treated as exempt from VAT. HMRC argued that green fees should be taxed whereas on behalf of the golf club KPMG argued that they should be treated in the same way as annual subscriptions.
The ECJ found that all supplies of the facility to play golf provided by non-profit making clubs must be exempt. There can be no exclusion from exemption by reference to green fees being income not arising directly from memberships. It was also held it is not possible to apply a general exclusion which narrows the scope of the exemption as provided on the face of the legislation.
KPMG who have taken the case are looking to a central resolution on the processing of the claims. It is expected that HMRC will in due course issue a press release in connection with the case and we recommend that you await further guidance before contacting HMRC.
England Golf and the Proprietary sector are considering this decision and the earlier Chipping Sodbury VAT decision. This is with a view to approaching HMRC to look at the most attractive options available having regard to the discretion afforded by European VAT legislation to treat proprietary and not for profit members clubs in such a way that helps maximise participation in golf across both sectors.