Shooting syndicates.

Shoot members around the country will breathe a sigh of relief after a tax tribunal ruled that syndicates putting on free days in lieu of payment for shooting rights fell outside the scope of VAT.

Experts say that the case, the first of its kind in the UK, will provide valuable assistance to the shooting community generally because it deals with the common situation whereby a landowner grants shooting rights to a syndicate in return for the provision of a number of days of shooting.

Douglas Gordon, VAT expert at chartered accountants Saffrey Champness, said: ?This sort of situation is happening with hundreds, if not thousands, of shoots around the country, and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have tried to tax them and they have been kicked into the long grass. That?s got to be good news for a lot of shoots.?

The case involved a shoot tenant who managed two distinct, though neighbouring, shoots.

Each syndicate operated its own bank account and employed its own keeper, with some shared costs.

There were no let days to third parties, and surpluses or deficits were carried forward from year to year.

On one of the shoots there had been a grant of shooting rights to the tenant and his close friends from a single landowner.

Two other landowners were involved in the second shoot, which did not include the tenant personally.

Douglas Gordon explained: ?HMRC argued that the free days provided to the landowners in return for the grant of the shooting rights were the equivalent of let days, but the tribunal specifically rejected this, pointing out that these days were consideration given by the syndicates, not the exploitation of the rights in return for a fee.?

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

However, he did sound a note of caution, saying: ?Though this case is helpful, readers should remember that it does not create a general rule that all syndicates are VAT free ? every case has to be decided on its own facts.?

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