Late Christmas present after court ruling

Shirland Golf Club is looking forward to a hefty five-figure payout following a European Court ruling on VAT.

HMRC has enforced VAT on green fees paid by non-members at golf clubs across the UK for years.

But the EC has ruled that the fees should be VAT-exempt in the UK, as they are across Europe, opening the floodgates for VAT reclaims by thousands of clubs.

The club that brought the action, Bridport and West Dorset, has indicated that it expects over £140,000 to be repaid by HMRC as a result of the court’s December ruling.

Shirland, like most golf clubs in the UK, has seen membership fall in recent years and is offering a 15-months-for-12 new members deal to try to boost numbers.

It had expected to make a financial loss next year when balancing membership fees against running costs, relying on non-member green fees to make up the shortfall.

But if HMRC pays back what it wrongly charged, the club could balance its books for the next two years.

Club chairman Mick Murtagh said: “The ruling has only recently been made and we are having to look closely at what its impact will be but we could be entitled to reclaim VAT paid on non-members’ green fees for the past four years which would be to a decent amount of money.

“Our membership, like most clubs, has fallen sharply as a result of the recession but if we can reclaim the wrongly-charged VAT we will be able to balance our books and be less reliant on the great generosity shown to us by land-owner Martin Speed who has given us a rent-holiday until March 2015.”

He added: “Getting this money back from HMRC will give us breathing space to attract new members as the national economy recovers and allow us to finish the massive improvements we’ve made to most of the course.”