The English Bridge Union failed in its bid to reclaim VAT on £631,000 of tournament fees after a lower tier tax tribunal ruled that bridge was a game rather than a sport.
The EBU went to tribunal to appeal against HMRC’s refusal to repay VAT on competition entry fees it raised between 30 June 2008 and 31 December 2011. HMRC argued that under the Euroepan VAT directive and UK law, contract bridge was not a sport, so competition fees were not a VATable supply.
Dr John Petrie, the EBU treasurer, submitted correspondence to the tribunal from French, Dutch, Belgian, Irish and Polish bridge bodies explaining that VAT was not charged on entry fees in their countries. The union’s barrister also pointed out that bridge was recognised as a sport by the Olympic Committee.
He also cited HMRC’s VAT reference notice 701/45, which includes activities such as croquet, darts, billiards, flying and gliding, where physical activity plays second fiddle to mental skill. The natural meaning of “sport” is not limited to activities which principally involve physical skill or exertion, he argued.
HMRC countered that sport was something that involves physical activity or physical fitness...