Biker club wins VAT case

Many clubs offer members a range of services for their membership fee. For example, membership may include a members’ magazine. Ordinarily, a magazine subscription should be zero rated for VAT purposes, but when the magazine element is bundled into a general club subscription – that is standard rated for VAT – problems can arise.

HMRC is prone to view the “bundled” price as a standard rated supply, whereas the affected organisation would prefer to separate out the zero-rated element thus reducing the cost to their members.

In a recent case, the Harley Owners Group challenged such a fixed supply argument raised by HMRC. They argued that the members’ magazine was a separate supply and should be considered zero-rated, and the courts agreed.

The delivery of mixed services under an umbrella membership subscription is an area of VAT law that is far from clear. However, HMRC has lost a number of cases recently with a similar outcome to the Harley Owners Club.

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