Since the 1990s fees for playing at not-for-profit sports clubs has been exempt for VAT purposes. However, HMRC has asserted that only club members’ playing fees are exempt for VAT purposes. Any visiting players have paid VAT included in their green fees. Clubs who have charged the same amount to members and visitors have therefore suffered a loss of revenue (the amount of VAT included in visitors’ fees that has been paid to HMRC).

The EU court has now ruled that the VAT exemption should also apply to visiting players.

This opens up the possibility that clubs can recover the VAT they have paid over to HMRC that was included in their charges to visiting players.

No doubt it will be necessary to demonstrate that clubs have borne the cost of the VAT themselves – that their charges were inclusive of VAT for visiting players. For clubs that do qualify refunds can be claimed back to 31 March 2009. This will be a welcome cash flow injection for many clubs who have suffered during the recent recession.

Clubs should act immediately, take professional advice, and lodge an appropriate claim.

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