AGCO challenges non-profit status of private members’ golf clubs

Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim November 27, 2015 12:00

The chair of the Association of Golf Course Owners (AGCO), Vivien Saunders, has submitted a report to the senior policy advisor on VAT at the Treasury that calls for the non-profit status of private members’ clubs to be challenged.

The timing comes just a few days after HMRC said it would pay VAT claims on green fees to private members’ clubs – but accountancy firm KPMG advised clubs not to act until a tribunal judgment is made, thought to be before the end of 2015.


David Gauke MP

Saunders, who has campaigned for years about a taxation distortion between private members’ golf clubs and the proprietary sector, has also met with the financial secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke MP, and has said that there is a “serious conflict of interest” with KPMG acting for private members’ clubs on the above case, but also in a separate capacity as an advisor for proprietary clubs in a bid to reduce VAT in golf through the UK Golf Course Owners Association (UKGCOA). Plus she has submitted to the Treasury what she calls evidence that private members’ golf clubs engage in tax evasion.

“The report submitted to Mike Cunningham, the senior policy advisor on VAT at the Treasury, is lengthy,” said Saunders.

“The first part deals with technical details of how and why I think they should challenge the non-profit status of members’ clubs. Our stance is different from UKGCOA, England Golf and KPMG, who don’t want any adverse change for members’ clubs. It also explains why I believe there is a serious conflict of interests with KPMG acting for the members’ clubs and then trying to act for the proprietary sector.

“The second part goes to the heart of the tax evasion by member-owned clubs – the judge involved, the MI6 officer involved, the former deputy chairman of the Financial Services Authority. We have a claim in with the European Commission saying that the forgiveness of tax is illegal state aid.

“The best way of tackling the VAT distortion is to re-assess the motives of the non-profit making member-owned clubs and to remove the VAT exemption from those that clearly trade for profit to give financial advantage to their members.

“Our industry has been destroyed. Our views on the means of solving the VAT distortion are very different from those of the UKGCOA, England Golf and KPMG who are clearly not prepared to consider the status and taxation of the member-owned clubs they represent. One day perhaps we will get justice.”


Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim November 27, 2015 12:00
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  1. general manager December 11, 11:59

    I have been a general manager who has worked both for private as well as propriety golf clubs. Let me start by saying that propriety golf clubs get benefits that private members do no get and visa versa.

    If you go back a while Vivien and her compatriots tried to take a case forward regarding VAT and lost. I am afraid it is all sour grapes because if they, the propriety golf clubs would have won the case, they would not have wanted a level playing field with the private members clubs.

    For me the key thing is and has always been “Golf”. It does not matter to me if it is private golf clubs or propriety golf clubs.

    So well done to the private golf clubs, we propriety golf clubs will have to find another way to bring it closer together.

    Vivien!! get on and try to find something that will actually make a change

    Reply to this comment
  2. Peter George Mills December 3, 19:21

    Stop flogging this dead horse and concentrate on your business. You trade for a profit, a private members’ club is a collection of players who simply want to play golf……

    Reply to this comment
  3. TB December 1, 12:42

    Well done Vivien Saunders, too long have private members club destroyed the game of golf by insisting on rules that date back 100’s of years and are not relevant in a modern society.
    Golf needs to be a level playing field with all golf clubs being charged the same level of VAT on greenfees and membership. This wouldn’t happen in any other industry so shouldn’t in golf!! Private clubs are at an incredible monetary advantage and still are unable to dominate the industry so what does that tell you about their service levels and care??

    Reply to this comment
    • GolfSec December 1, 15:40

      What a complete load of rubbish. As mentioned below, were those harping on about this supposed issue to actually educate themselves fully then they may have an argument. Until that day comes, as the saying goes, ignorance is bliss.

      For information, this does happen in other industries, just to help you take your first step in educating yourself.

      Reply to this comment
    • NSJ December 3, 19:03

      It tells you that without them you would not have an industry, not have a recognised England Golf and County structure and you would not be in existence. Incidentally, what is the ratio between private and proprietary clubs being sold, redeveloped and built on?

      Reply to this comment
  4. GolfSec November 27, 21:17

    Well, there is a surprise. Vivien Saunders still banging her drum on an issue she has seemingly never bothered to learn fully about. For a supposedly intelligent person, her lack of interest in educating herself is astounding. Or could it be that she is merely interested in how she can fill her own coffers… All I know is that she is single-handedly killing her own golf clubs (Abbotsley and Cromwell, or should that just be Abbostley now) through lack of empathy with members and pushing her own agenda which has nothing to do with encouraging people to play golf. So, why people continue to pay attention to this woman is beyond me.

    She has zero interest in looking at how to bring people into golf and is just looking to improve her bottomline and fill her pockets in the process in such a way that could, in the end, backfire through pushing more people away from golf.

    Reply to this comment
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