Industry reaction: The 20 year battle over VAT on machines – The casino perspective

Simon Thomas HMRC VAT decision reaction
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Simon Thomas has watched this VAT battle unfold and unravel all the way through the past two decades and takes a pragmatic view on things now, we assume, the matter is resolved. It’s time to look forward, he says, but it’s also time to pay the money back and as quickly as possible.



Coinslot: The First Tribunal decision on the Rank versus HMRC VAT case is a major victory for the industry. How significant is the decision and how many businesses do you think will benefit from this?

Simon Thomas: It’s another strong, common sense decision, but it’s just a shame it has been strung out so long with some businesses not being able to survive to see the result.

Coinslot: This now ends over 20 years of wrangling on the Vat issue on machines. On a practical level, what impact has this had on businesses in the industry?

Simon Thomas: Hopefully closure and an end to the time wasted sorting it out. We need to focus on the future, not be stuck in the past.

Coinslot: Why did HMRC get this so wrong, and how were they able to drag this out for such a long time?

Simon Thomas: The situation was complex and HMRC were behind the drag curve seemingly not understanding the tax position at the time. As to why it took so long to sort – naturally it helps their cash flow and the legal process is protracted at the best of time.

A ‘common sense decision’ but there will be some businesses no longer around to benefit

Coinslot: Some businesses will not have survived the loss of this money, coming as it did during two financial crashes and now Covid. Given the aggressive, and now improper, actions by HMRC, do you think compensation should be considered?

Simon Thomas: I have no doubt people will be considering their positions, particularly if HMRC try to string it out further by asking for leave to appeal.

Coinslot: By the time businesses will recover this money – some over 20 years – the tax office’s interpretation would have impeded major growth opportunities as well as financial stability for many businesses. Do you think we now need a re-evaluation of the powers of HMRC in these cases?

Simon Thomas: No. Generally HMRC do a good job.

I can empathise with them as the financial world is so complex. But I would just ask that they repay overpaid tax more quickly in future!

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