Yet another round is looming in respect of the Bridport Golf Club case

golf club VAT

We have previously mentioned in other blogs that HMRC might be looking to argue that if it were to repay private members’ golf clubs  overpaid VAT relating to green fees it would amount to unjust enrichment. It is currently rumoured that HMRC will make the case that the repayable amounts. which are  likely add up to millions of pounds, should be cut by at least half, following the commissioning of a  report by tax specialist Professor Syzmanski.

In 2013, the European Court of Justice judged that VAT was not due on green fees paid by individuals to private members clubs. This led too many ‘not for profit’ clubs making reclaims of VAT they believe has been overpaid to HMRC in respect of green fees. It is believed that the claims are worth thousands of pounds each to many of the clubs involved.

A tribunal judge allowed HMRC to employ an American sports’ tax expert, Professor Stefan Szymanski, to study four golf clubs to see whether unjust enrichment occurred. If this was found to be the case, HMRC may not be required to make the payments.

Professor Szymanski’s report is alleged to comment that: ‘The evidence suggests a pass-through rate [when the tax is passed from the golf club to the customer] of at least 50%”.  It this turns out to be the case, HMRC may well submit that the appellants would be unjustly enriched to the extent that they are repaid more than 50% of the VAT charged on the green fees.

There is a further hearing on this matter due to be heard at the Royal Court of Justice on January 22, 2015. It remains to be seen whether the rumours are true, and if they are, whether HMRC’s argument will be successful. A large number of golf clubs will be hoping that it fails.

If you would like further information on this matter, or are a private members Golf Club that would like to talk to us about making a claim, please contact  our Head  of VAT Services Gill Yates at or call 0845 177 5500 use our on-line contact form.


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