Private members’ golf clubs are receiving VAT windfalls

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 14, 2016 12:18

Private members’ golf clubs in Scotland have been receiving huge windfalls from the treasury in recent days following a legal dispute that has been going on for decades.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in 2013 that green fees at private members’ golf clubs should have been exempt from VAT over several years, but no money had been paid back  due to legal wrangling since then. It was also suggested that Brexit could even scupper golf clubs receiving what could amount to hundreds of millions of pounds in rebates.


However, The Courier has reported that Blairgowrie Golf Club is Scotland has received a £550,000 VAT payment and Scottish Golf has suggested that several other clubs have also received payments.

Blairgowrie’s managing secretary, Douglas Cleeton, said: “It’s a wonderful and significant windfall for us and we will be considering carefully how it will be invested.

“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 £1 million.

“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.

“It may take the immediate pressure off and dig some clubs out of a hole for a year or two.

“But no one can afford to think a rebate will be a quick fix solution to all their problems, especially with VAT recoverable on capital projects and essential machinery now down to 14 per cent as opposed to 100 per cent only 25 or 30 years ago.

“The tax man will get his money back over the long term.

“Across Scotland we are seeing golf club membership on the slide, visitors looking for the best possible deals and bar revenue falling. So you have to be on top of your game to keep things ticking over.

“Fortunately at Blairgowrie we haven’t been relying on private members’ clubs winning the long-running legal test case against HMRC.

“But now that we have the money in the bank the committee will be thinking carefully how to make the most of our welcome windfall.

“Several projects are under consideration for the long term benefit of the golf club and to provide a legacy for the future.”


Blairgowrie Golf Club

Kevin Fish, Club Services manager for Scottish Golf, added: “The long-awaited conclusion of these various VAT legal challenges is a most welcome boost for many Scottish clubs who have been temporarily out of pocket but 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 continues to provide education and face-to-face support to hundreds of club managers to help their golf clubs to thrive in these challenging economic times.”

Are you the manager of an English, Welsh or Northern Irish golf club expecting a payment? Have you received it yet? Please detail your experiences below, or email us on


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 14, 2016 12:18
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