• They took HMRC to court over VAT charged on visitor fees
• Blairgowrie received £550,000 - some clubs seven-figure sums
Private golf clubs across Scotland have won a landmark legal case over tax authorities – with some facilities being handed seven-figure sums.
According to The Times, they took HMRC to court, arguing that they had been overpaying VAT charged on visitor fees dating back to the mid-90s.
Following a lengthy legal battle they won their test case in the Royal Courts of Justice in London, and now clubs have been receiving their repayments.
"We won’t be the biggest beneficiaries in Scotland, not by a long way" - Douglas Cleeton
Blairgowrie, in Perthshire has so far received a £550,000 VAT rebate, which managing secretary Douglas Cleeton welcomed as a ‘significant’ boost to the club.
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“It’s a wonderful and significant windfall for us and we will be considering carefully how it will be invested,” he told The Times. “We won’t be the biggest beneficiaries in Scotland, not by a long way.
“At the top end of the market, there are clubs with exceptionally big visitor numbers which will be getting more than £1m
"For many clubs, the VAT windfall will be a lifesaver" - Douglas Cleeton
“The vast majority, of course, will be getting a windfall which is much more modest. For many clubs struggling to survive in the current climate the VAT windfall will be a lifesaver, especially at this time of year.”
However, Mr Cleeton added that such a substantial amount cannot be considered a ‘quick fix’ for some golf clubs that are struggling.
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"The VAT rebate may take the immediate pressure off and dig some clubs out of a hole for a year or two,” he added. “But no one can afford to think a rebate will be a quick-fix solution to all their problems.”
Those views were echoed by Scottish Golf’s club services manager Kevin Fish.
“Such a windfall should not distract club committees from the responsibility they have to ensure that they continue to offer a product, a service and an experience that appeals to the modern golfer.
“We would point out, however, that you don’t have to have received a large windfall to make significant improvements in the experience you provide golfers.”
Scottish golf clubs receives substantial windfalls
Is your club one of those that has benefitted from this landmark legal victory? If so, what do you think will be done at your club to put it to good use? Leave your thoughts in the 'Comments' section below.