In Royal County Down Golf Club V HMRC [2021] TC08055, the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) dismissed the taxpayer's appeal, finding that a repayment claim made in 2015 was a new claim, made out-of-time, and not an amendment to an earlier 2009 claim.

The Royal County Down Golf Club (the Club) historically accounted for VAT on green fees in accordance with prevailing HMRC's guidance that the Exemption for sporting activities did not extend to supplies made to non-members of golf clubs.

Subsequently, it became the Club's view that the sporting exemption should be extended to visiting players.

  • In 2009, the Club submitted a claim of about £500,000 to HMRC for overpaid output tax on green fees in respect of pre-31 December 2008 VAT periods (the 2009 claim).
  • HMRC rejected the Club's claim.
  • The Club appealed against HMRC's decision, standing behind an appeal brought by another golf club, Bridport and West Dorset Golf Club Ltd.

Following several court decisions including a referral to the ECJ, it was found that:

  • Member states cannot differentiate between the recipients of services that are, in essence, identical.
  • The sporting VAT exemption applies to “taking part in sport and physical education in general”.

HMRC then announced that they would repay output VAT to golf clubs in these circumstances.

  • In 2015, the Club submitted a claim for the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2013 (the 2015 claim).
  • The Club viewed this as an amendment and update to the 2009 claim and not a new claim.
    • If it was a new claim, the claim would have been out of the four-year time limit.
  • HMRC accepted the 2009 claim and rejected the part of the 2015 claim for periods from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2010 in the sum of about £230,000, taking the view that this was a new claim which was made out of the four-year time limit.
  • The Club Appealed against HMRC’s decision to reject part of the 2015 claim.

The FTT held that the 2015 claim was a new claim and was not an amendment or modification to the 2009 claim on the basis that: "The 2009 claim expressly states that it is in respect of, ‘green fee income for the period …up to to 31 December 2008."

  • There was no reference at all to any later periods.
  • On an objective reading, these later periods were not contemplated by the 2009 claim.

The appeal was dismissed.

Useful guides on this topic

Sport and physical recreation
When does the VAT exemption apply to sport? What is an eligible body for the VAT exemption? What is a sport?

Reclaims and unjust enrichment
When can VAT reclaims be made? What are the time limits? What is unjust enrichment? Why might unjust enrichment prevent HMRC making VAT repayments? 

Partial exemption & input VAT
How do you calculate the amount of input tax you can recover under the VAT partial exemption rules? What are the de minimis rules?

How to appeal an HMRC decision
Disagree with an HMRC decision? How to appeal, what type of decision can you appeal, what are your different options when you disagree with HMRC? What are the key steps in making an appeal?

External links

Royal County Down Golf Club V HMRC [2021] TC08055

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