VAT ‘distortion’ for Golf Clubs

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The Association of Golf Club Owners is a membership body representing owners of golf courses. Its main object is to challenge certain ‘unfair’ VAT legislation which puts their member clubs at a disadvantage to members’ clubs. (You can read more at

AGCO go further, arguing that “the proprietary golf industry is being decimated.” (FTT decision, para 140).

The AGCO has been involved in the test case of Abbotsley Ltd, which concerned the VAT lability of affiliation fees. Their ultimate aim, as stated in the FTT decision, is that their case be heard at the European Court of Justice. This decision is here:

Unfortunately, the FTT refused the Clubs’ application to have the matter referred straight to the CJEU. The further Appeal to the Upper Tier took three years, as it went via the Administrative Court.

The FTT case addressed the wider question of exemption of Sports Clubs, which is restricted to non-profits, thus excluding AGCO member clubs. The Administrative Court denied permission for this question to be appealed.

On the affiliate fees point, by the time of the Upper Tier hearing, HMRC had changed their policy such that the affiliation fees became standard rated from 1 April 2018. Presumably this was to deter the appeal from proceeding further.

The Upper Tier decision is here:

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