Global Edition

UK Golf Course Owners Lobby their MPs on VAT

1.24pm 27th January 2016 - Management Topics

Logo-UKGCOA UJackAndy Lloyd-Skinner, Chief Executive Officer of UKGCOA (UK Golf Course Owners Association), told “We met with Treasury officials on 7th December to provide responses to a number of economic and legal questions they had asked following our previous meeting on the 29th July. I won’t go into the detail but I can confirm that they were provided with a considerable amount of data that should provide the economic and legal justification for a reduced VAT rate for proprietary golf that they requested. They are currently validating the data in readiness for a further meeting in the first quarter of this year.

“In the meantime, it will be prudent to start to consider the political justification for applying a reduced rate to proprietary golf. We are asking our members to write to their Members of Parliament and we have prepared a template letter which outlines progress that has been made and why VAT distortion has a major impact on golf, but not other sports.

“We are asking for all clubs to confirm to me that they have done this. My email address is

“I often get asked if we are making progress with this campaign and I can now say that I believe we are, but the final push needs our members and supporters to participate, so please send the letter to your MP asap and confirm when sent and the name of your MP.”

The template letter appears below.



Dear (MP’s name)

I am writing, as a golf facility owner and employer within your constituency, to inform you of a serious taxation distortion issue that has been impacting my business along with a large majority of proprietary golf businesses (defined by HMRC as commercial) since the early 1990’s. This has become a much more serious issue following a successful legal challenge to HMRC by member-owned golf clubs (defined by HMRC as non-profit making). Furthermore, I am requesting your support for an ongoing project by the UK Golf Course Owners Association (UKGCOA) in partnership with golf’s National Governing Body, England Golf, which has an objective to reduce VAT distortion , as far as EU VAT law will allow, between proprietary and member-owned golf facilities as there are no notable differences between the two types of golf facility in the eyes of the consumer.

The above-mentioned project led by the UKGCOA in partnership with England Golf is to apply a reduced rate of VAT (5%) to golf participants at proprietary golf facilities, which accounts for almost half of the total golf courses in the UK and, since the recent decision in the “Bridport and West Dorset Golf Club vs HMRC” case by the European Court of Justice, is slowly making progress with senior officers at the Treasury and HMRC.

Using the economic and legal services of KPMG, the UKGCOA and England Golf, has presented a significant amount of data to provide both economic and legal justifications for applying the reduced rate of VAT to those participating at proprietary golf facilities. I have been made aware by the UKGCOA that the next meeting with the Treasury and HMRC officials, which is expected to take place in the first quarter of this year, is to discuss and agree a political justification that will prove acceptable to Treasury Ministers.

The UKGCOA and England Golf are concerned that applying a reduced rate of VAT to participants at proprietary golf facilities is likely to be politically “sensitive” if the same rate is not applied to participants at all proprietary owned sports facilities. However, there are a number of issues in arriving at a justification for doing so, as follows:

  1. The Treasury requires a significant amount of data analysis to arrive at an economic justification before approaching Treasury Ministers for such a decision. The UKGCOA and England Golf are members of the Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA), which represents over 320 sport’s national governing bodies, and have been made aware that the distortion created by the differing VAT rates for participation at non-profit making and proprietary owned sports facilities is unique to golf for the reasons outlined at c) and d) below.
  2. The additional time, cost and effort to collect economic data from the estimated 150,000 sports clubs across the UK to analyse and present to the Treasury is clearly prohibitive.
  3. A recent SRA study shows that 90% of sports clubs are non-profit making, so participants already benefit from the VAT exemption. As mentioned above, the split between non-profit making (VAT exempt) and proprietary (standard rate VAT) golf facilities is near to 50%.
  4. The same SRA study states that only four sports have an average annual participation turnover above the current VAT threshold. Furthermore, the average annual golf club participation revenues are £420,000 and in second place is Rugby Union at £128,000. This clearly demonstrates that VAT distortion is a major issue to the golf industry, but not to other sports.

The issue of VAT distortion in golf has created disunity in the golf industry and many business failures with the resulting impact on local employment. The UKGCOA and England Golf joined forces several years ago in an effort to resolve this divisive issue and are now making progress, but need political support to overcome the final hurdle.

In summary, the golf industry has achieved economic and legal justification for applying a reduced rate of VAT for golfing participants at proprietary facilities and Treasury/HMRC officials are in the process of validating the significant amount of data and resulting analysis that has been presented during 2015. The golf industry is acutely aware of the sensitivity of achieving a political justification that the senior Treasury officials can put to Treasury Ministers. Therefore, as a business owner and employer within your constituency I am formally requesting your support for the reduced rate project in the UK’s golf industry in an appropriate format which, I assume, is a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Secretary to the Treasury, but please advise if there are more appropriate methods for you to demonstrate your support.

I look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully

 /  /  / 

In related news... (GBN) is for the many thousands of people who work in the golf business all around the world.

We cover the full range of topics both on and off the course. We aim to supply essential information both quickly and accurately in a format which is easy to use. We are independent of all special interest groups.


Click here to sign up for our free twice weekly golf industry news summary

View the latest newsletter here