A recent ruling by a tax tribunal has brought welcome clarification to syndicate shoots on whether they should be VAT-registered.

In the case of Edward Harrison vs HM Revenue & Customs, the tribunal ruled that the running of two shooting syndicates were not required to be registered for VAT.

Douglas Gordon of accountant Saffery Champness, said the case provided valuable assistance to the shooting community, as it deals with the common situation where a landowner grants shooting rights to a syndicate in return for a number of days’ shooting.

“The courts have previously considered shooting conducted by landowners, but in this case the appellant was not the landowner, but a licensee in relation to distinct although neighbouring shoots.

“In one instance there was a grant of shooting rights to the appellant from a single landowner, while in the second instance two other landowners were involved. The first syndicate comprised the appellant and his close friends, while the second was an offshoot of the first syndicate, but did not include the appellant himself.”

Each syndicate operated its own bank account and employed its own keeper. Some costs were shared and both operations were managed by the appellant. There were no let days, and surpluses or deficits were carried forward from year to year.

The tribunal ruled that the appellant was not required to be VAT-registered, and noted that the licences granted in the name of the appellant were granted to the syndicated and therefore the appellant made no supplies of shooting rights to the syndicate members. Secondly, that although the appellant provided management services, they were below the registration threshold for VAT.

HMRC argued that “free” days provided to the landowner in return for shooting rights qualified as let days, but the tribunal ruled against this. Costs were awarded against HMRC.

“On the whole, this was a comprehensive and no doubt satisfying win for the taxpayer,” said Mr Gordon. “It is useful confirmation that the courts are prepared to apply common sense, and a reminder to HMRC to do the same.

“Although this case is helpful, landowners and shooting syndicates should remember that is does not create a general rule that all syndicates are VAT-free. Every case should be decided on its own facts.”

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