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HMRC internal manual

VAT Land and Property

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Fishing and shooting (Item 1c): still water fishing

The general principle underlying this type of business is that the trader stocks the fishery with still-water fish such as trout, and allows a fisherman to fish for a session (a whole day, half day or evening) on payment of a fee. Where there is a limit on the number of fish that may be caught and killed the fisherman may have to pay for a further session if he wishes to continue fishing, or to pay for fish taken in excess of that limit. The arrangements for payment, and what is said to be provided by the fee, vary from one fishery to another.

Generally, one of the following applies. The fisherman pays a:

  • single price. He is then allowed to fish. He must take away whatever he catches, but nothing more,
  • single price. He may choose whether to throw the fish he catches back into the water or take them away for no further charge,
  • set price to be allowed to fish. If he catches any fish, he is required to pay extra for them and take them away, or
  • set price to be allowed to fish. If he catches any fish, he can freely choose whether to throw them back or to take them away. He pays for any he chooses to take away.

A single or set price to fish and for any fish caught is seen as the consideration for a single standard rated supply of a right to fish, even if the trader claims to be supplying both fishing rights and fish. This view is supported by the tribunal decision in Chalk Spring Fisheries (VTD 2518):

A trout farm appealed against the Commissioners’ ruling that the monies received for trout fishing were for one single supply of the right to take fish. In dismissing the appeal, the Tribunal concluded:

‘…as a matter of common sense, what the intending fisherman receives for his money is simply the right to go on the land to catch trout, limited in duration and number. No trout is, in my view, supplied to him at all. Instead the fisherman must go out and catch them, if he can.’

That analysis was followed in RC Haynes (VTD 2948).

In that case, a trout farm appealed against the Commissioners’ ruling that the monies received for trout fishing were for a single supply of the right to take fish. Anglers were charged a set price of £9.50 for a whole day, broken down as £6.50 for the privilege of fishing and £3.00 for the fish taken. The £3.00 was payable whether or not the angler caught any fish. The Tribunal held that the set price was the consideration for a single standard-rated supply of the right to take fish.

However, if in addition to a charge for the right to fish, a separate charge is made solely for any fish caught, then there are two supplies: one of the right to take fish and one of the fish itself.

If the fish taken away are of a species generally used for food in the UK (see Notice 701/14 Food) then that separate payment is zero rated as consideration for a supply of edible fish.