European Golf Industry Dealing with VAT

Those annoying taxes that tourists are forced to pay before departing many countries around the world have become a major concern for European golf course owners and related golf associations. The entities are claiming that VAT (value-added tax) is unfair to their industry.

Representatives from over nine national golf course owners associations and the English Golf Union met recently in London, UK, to discuss European VAT regulations and their implications for the golf industry. The meeting, hosted by the European Golf Course Owners Association (EGCOA), took place on December 2nd during the European Golf Business Conference, held at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London's Victoria.

Lodewijk Klootwijk, Director of the EGCOA said of the discussion: "The goal of this working group is to exchange information, and where possible to take action to achieve an improved VAT regime for golf in Europe."

During the meeting Alexander Hagen of tax advisory company, Leisure & Tax, presented information on VAT issues encountered in various countries across Europe. Representatives from each country also gave a summary of their situation, and any legal action planned or already in progress.

"According to the general consensus amongst the group, we find ourselves in a situation where the commercial golfing sector in most countries feels that the administration of VAT is carried out in an unfair way," says Klootwijk.

"This is substantiated by the argument that golfing facilities (both commercial and non-commercial) operate in a similar way and, in essence provide the same services to the general public. In Denmark, for example, member-owned courses are VAT exempt, but commercial courses are required to pay 25% on their memberships and green fees. The working group has set in place an action plan to challenge the current situation on both a national and EU level.

"As I have said in the past, legislation from the European Union forbids governments to give parts of an industry an advantage over others in the same industry, but from our perspective, this appears not to apply in the golf business."

During the meeting, it was agreed that group members would be provided with a letter outlining details on the case of distortion of competition, which they would then forward to their national tax authorities. Other joint actions agreed, included the benchmarking of property tax in various countries, and investigations into tax deductibility on golf courses.

For more information, visit