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HMRC internal manual

VAT Business/Non-Business Manual

Legal history: cases about wildlife trusts

Please note that the following material is not a full summary of the case - it merely highlights the principle referred to in the appropriate section of this manual.

The Game Conservancy Trust VTD 17394

The Trust was established ‘to promote for the public benefit the conservation and study of game species, their habitats and other species associated with those habitats’. It had at first accounted for VAT on its members’ subscriptions. However, it subsequently took the view that it was a body with objects of a philanthropic nature. This would entitle it to exempt its membership supplies.

HMRC opposed the repayment of VAT charged to the members of the Trust on their subscriptions. We argued that the Trust primarily supported the self-interest of its members, most of whom enjoyed shooting as a hobby.

The tribunal allowed the Trust to exempt its membership supplies. It held that the objects of the Trust were ‘directed at the promotion of the well-being of mankind’ and ‘serve to benefit the general community’.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust VTD 19540

The Trust was established to ‘advance, promote and further the conservation, maintenance and protection of wildlife and its habitats’. It claimed back input tax on the costs of maintaining a flock of sheep and on managing an area of woodlands on the grounds that it was carrying out a business of sheep farming and forestry.

HMRC argued that the Trust’s primary purpose in keeping a flock of sheep was to advance its charitable, non-business object of conservation.

The tribunal allowed the Trust’s claim in part. It held that the Trust was carrying on a business activity of sheep farming but that some of the input tax that the Trust had claimed did not have a direct and immediate link with that business activity.