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National Exhibition Centre Triumphs in VAT Rebate Claim

The local authority-owned company that runs Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre and other venues in the city is in line for a multi-million-pound VAT rebate after the First-Tier Tribunal accepted that it had for many years mistakenly paid VAT output tax on ticket booking fees.

National Exhibition Centre Limited (NECL) argued that, over a period of more than 30 years – between 1976 and 2009 – it had accounted for output tax in error on booking fees it charged event-goers who paid for tickets by credit or debit card. On the basis that the booking fees should have been treated as consideration for exempt supplies, NECL claimed rebates totalling more than £5 million.

The company encountered stiff resistance from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in proceedings that began in 2004. However, in upholding NECL’s appeal, the tribunal ruled that the booking fees had been received by the company in respect of payment processing services that were exempt from VAT by operation of article 13B of the Sixth EC VAT Directive.

In its ruling the tribunal only specifically dealt with VAT overpaid during the period 1999 to 2002. However it was agreed that the ruling was also determinative of other earlier and later periods and the tribunal noted that the parties were confident that it would now be possible to resolve issues of quantum between themselves.