BASC makes sport shooting possible

October 29, 2010

animals, regulation, tax

Last year, we covered the case of British Association for Shooting and Conservation Ltd (BASC) and their dispute with the tax authorities over the status of membership subscriptions: https://sportslawnews.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/bacs-do-not-have-to-become-arms-dealers/

This case has now been reheard by Mr Justice Colin Bishopp in British Association for Shooting and Conservation Ltd (BASC) v. The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs [2010] UKFTT 268 (TC). The full case can be read at: http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/uk/cases/UKFTT/TC/2010/TC00562.html

I don’t propose to repeat the facts again in this posting (they can be found in the original article), but essentially the Tribunal needed to determine whether BASC’s subscriptions fees were connected to politics or sport

The correct test for whether an item received an exemption from tax due to sport, is contained within Item 3 of Group 10 of Sch.9 to the Value Added Tax Act 1994:

“The supply by an eligible body to an individual, except, where the body operates a membership scheme, an individual who is not a member, of services closely linked with and essential to sport or physical education in which the individual is taking part.”

and essentially has five conditions (recognised in Canterbury Hockey Club v. Revenue and Customs Commissioners (Case C-253/07) [2008] STC 3351):

1)      The supply must be made by a non-profit making organisation [tick! BASC is a non-profit making organisation]

2)      The organisation must make a supply of services [tick! BASC makes a supply of services]

3)      Those services must be supplied to persons taking part in sport [ partial tick! The Court stated at [5] that the shooting of game is a sport, although some animal rights supporters might question this, disagreement over the supply to persons taking part]

4)      The services must be closely linked to sport  [disagreement]

5)      The supply must be essential to the transactions exempted [disagreement]

What changed in this judgment is that BASC provided additional evidence [7] as to how its activities support sport:

  • Organisation of three deer stalking schemes (two in England, one in Scotland)
  • Preservation of game habitats
  • Web service for members to identify and contact landowners who offer stalking
  • Negotiation of rights of access, and the formulation of codes of conduct for coastal wildfowling
  • Provision of training courses for coaches, range officers, school teachers, young people and its own members
  • Lobbying and educating ministers, MPs, Chief constables and others about the sport, in particular the securing of an amendment to the Hunting Act 2004

 

And Mr Justice Bishopp clarified at [14] that BASC did not have to exclusively supply all sport shooters with membership and services, and the fact that members could obtain some of the services themselves or through competing organisations did not affect the exemption analysis, although the court did add later that paragraph that BASC was unique.

Given that clarification, the Court accepted that the previous test was too high and that the test should not have been whether BASC’s suppliers were essential  to make sport physically possible (through the provision of land, game or guns), but rather whether the omission of its supplies would materially lessen the quality of the sport [15].

On this point, while the evidence was unanimous that if BASC or an equivalent did not exist, there would be significantly greater restrictions of shooting and that any available facilities would be of a much poorer quality [16], the defendants tried to challenge the decision on the grounds that BASC wider social and political functions beyond that of just sport prevented BASC’s services from being an essential supply (part 5 of the test) [19].

This argument was however rejected, as once the test had been satisfied that BASC’s supplies were closely linked to the sport of shooting and added (significant) value to the sport , the fact that other people and organisations also benefitted from them was irrelevant [20].

 Youtube, “Shooting Politics”, episode 9, 9th December 2009 (including a debate about Shooting and the 2012 Olympics):

Youtube, “Shooting Sports Trust”

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About Kris

Associate Professor in Sports Law, Staffordshire University; British Gymnastics Senior Coach

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