Determination and media attention push working men’s club tax battle forward

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Kingsley Park Working Men’s Club’s bookkeeper Barry Slasberg has been invited to a meeting with HMRC following local media attention and 12 years of determination. The WMC’s battle for a refund of VAT tax has taken a new twist.

Following a request for comment from local media and a dogged determination from Kingsley Park Working Mens Club, HMRC have U-turned on a decision to meet with the club’s bookkeeper Barry Slasberg.
In November last year a letter from HMRC said there were no decisions by a tribunal or any other court that supported the WMC’s claim, which is that they should not have paid tax on machines until 2005 – as was the case with fixed odds betting terminals. The letter insisted that a meeting between Slasberg and HMRC would be unlikely to result in a positive outcome, however due to recent coverage in the local media HMRC has changed its mind.
Slasberg maintains that despite a court of appeal ruling in favour of HMRC on the issue of tax on machines using an inbuilt random number generator (RNG) to determine the outcome, the court did not make a judgment relating to the machines in WMCs.
“The judgement on machines ended at the Supreme Court after going through the High Court and the Court of Appeal, but it only ruled on RNG. The argument was whether RNG inbuilt in a machine is the same as multiple machines being governed by one RNG outside of the row of machines,” explained Slasberg. “However, it was at that stage that I discovered that WMCs hadn’t been considered by the Court of Appeal and from then on, after pointing this out to HMRC, they continued to insist that the court judgements from the Court of Appeal were in their favour. It was in their favour, but it wasn’t a ruling on the case of WMCs.”
Slasberg added that an ombudsman has agreed with the WMC’s claims that the Court of Appeal doesn’t affect them, and believes that the decision of the High Court – that WMCs should not have paid tax on certain machines up until 2005 – should be upheld.
“It would be a lie for HMRC to say that there was a Court of Appeal judgement on our case in their favour, when the Court of Appeal never even considered our case,” he said. “Therefore, I maintain that the High Court judgement in favour of our case still still stands.”
While Slasberg has been fighting in Kingsley Park WMC’s corner for eight years now, this is an issue that has affected about 3000 clubs across the country. In 2014, when clubs learned they would have to pay back money given to them in 2011, HMRC was “inundated with complaints” from clubs which had largely used the funds to fight a downturn that came with the smoking ban. As Slasberg continues to fight in the interests of all WMCs, he hopes his persistence will turn into tangible progress with HMRC.
“I don’t have a lot of legal nous, but I know what’s right and wrong,” he concluded. “It’s just taken a lot of time and determination.”

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