Landmark VAT victory for opera charity Garsington

Charities which provide VAT exempt and non-exempt services together may be able to reclaim more tax, tribunal says

Charities that sell tickets to attractions such as zoos, museums and theatres could be able reclaim some VAT paid to suppliers, a tax tribunal has ruled.

HM Revenue & Customs had previously said these charities could not reclaim any such VAT because tickets sold for their events were exempt from the tax.

It had said other products sold by charities in addition to tickets, such as programmes and drinks, were "incidental" and money could not have been earned from them if the charity had not sold the tickets.

However, the tribunal ruled that Garsington Opera could reclaim some of the VAT it paid suppliers because it had substantial income from items such as programme and CD sales.

Arthur Blackburn, head of VAT at specialist charity auditors Horwath Clark Whitehill, said the decision was good news for charities.

"This is an opportunity for charities to go back and look at the VAT they have paid in previous years," he said.

However, he warned that charities would have to show that the additional income was crucial to their operations continuing.

"One of the reasons Garsington was successful was that it could demonstrate income earned from other sources was essential for it to carry out its activities," he said.

"Organisations such as London Zoo and Twycross Zoo should look at this closely."

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