HMRC ‘bad faith’ keeping gaming “minnows” off VAT repayment radar, claims Slasberg

Barry Slasberg HMRC VAT refund fight
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The forty year vet of the Working Men’s Club sector says that Her Majesty’s revenue service has made good on VAT repayments to big business, whilst letting smaller players go hand. Barry Slasberg is not interested in pulling punches; his battle – or war – with HMRC certainly brings out the rage.


Working Men’s Club veteran Barry Slasberg hasn’t let a global pandemic stop him from waging his long-fought campaign for HMRC to payout on VAT refunds due to a myriad of independent gaming outfits across the country.

On the contrary, in a letter sent to Coinslot this weekend, Slasberg – who has previously served as the Working Men’s Club & Institute Union president for over a decade – laid out in precise detail what he alleged was the “fraudulent” manner in which HMRC had repaid erroneously charged VAT levied on machine earnings in 2011.

“In May 2020 HMRC accepted the ruling that they were liable to pay back the VAT refund made in 2011, [but] before they notified the potential recipients of this fact, HMRC actually refunded £22.5m to the Rank Group – who were the lead case and obviously big business,” he wrote. “HMRC issued their guidance on how to reclaim this money in May, [then] required the thousands of smaller businesses to re-justify the claim which could be subject to HMRC audit.”

And according to Slasberg, the timeline of events which followed illustrated how “unfair” and “immoral” the Treasury had acted towards smaller operators: resisting refund payouts until being obligated to do so by an Upper Tribunal ruling against them in March of this year – and subsequently setting terms for repayment which many impacted parties are unable to meet.

“These terms meant tracing records back to 2002 [but] most businesses would have destroyed these records many years ago,” Slasberg argued. “As the claim was approved by HMRC in 2011 these terms were issued in absolute bad faith.”

The net result, he maintained, was that despite nearly a decade having passed since the tax blunder, “many businesses are still jumping through hoops to get their money back.”

“The financial secretary to the Treasury stated to parliament that “there is no prioritisation to any particular claimant,” he continued. “But this simply does not tie in with the fact that Rank (the big fish) was paid before HMRC publicised the judgement – and the thousands of smaller claimants (the minnows) are being treated fraudulently.”

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