Cheap Shots – shooting industry tax ‘irregularities’ exposed

Posted on the 25th July 2006

The game shooting industry, while trumpeting its alleged contribution to the rural economy, is guilty of widespread tax 'irregularities', according to a new report by Animal Aid.

The latest in a line of industry-financed studies (1) into the economic impact of ‘sport shooting’ in the UK is likely to be published in time for the Country Land and Business Association Game Fair at Broadlands in Hampshire on 28 July 2006.

What it won’t reveal, notes the national campaign group’s new dossier, Cheap Shots, is the level of tax avoidance that contributes to the game industry’s profits. In fact, just as the industry prepares to launch its latest pro-shooting propaganda offensive, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is undertaking a country-wide investigation into shooting’s malpractices. Its initiative comes after Animal Aid provided the agency with a detailed dossier on how shooting businesses dodge paying business rates and VAT.

The scope for VAT evasion by the shooting industry is significant, as indicated by a letter sent to shoot businesses in April 2006 by HMRC. The letter states that ‘tax irregularities are occurring across the country’ and warns that unannounced inspections will be taking place.

HMRC’s concerns not only closely mirror those that have been raised by Animal Aid for some years, but also its decision to act against shooting industry fraud follows detailed correspondence and a lengthy meeting between Revenue officials and Animal Aid.

The Revenue’s letter to shooters lists numerous ways in which the public purse is deprived of funds. These include:

  • misdescribing a commercial shoot as a non-profit making club activity
  • passing off shooting expenditure – on which VAT should be paid – as being related to food production, which is zero VAT rated.
  • Failure to register for VAT

As well as VAT irregularities, many shooting businesses also dodge paying local taxes.

Because pheasants and partridges are reared for ‘sport shooting’ rather than for food, those involved in their mass production must pay business rates. However, hundreds of such businesses fail to do so. Animal Aid has reported dozens of them to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which will lead to the collection of millions of pounds. But, notes Cheap Shots, the evidence shows that the majority of game bird producers are still evading their duty to pay business rates, as a result of inaction by the VOA, the Treasury and local authorities.

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

“Not content with killing animals for pleasure, the shooting industry pretends that its bloody activities somehow benefit the public purse. The reverse is the case. Shoots impoverish rural communities, in particular, by failing to pay their full share of local and national taxes. “Game” shooting is so publicly contentious, it requires six major organisations to defend it. Despite their combined annual turnover exceeding £23 million, these organisations are engaged in a lost cause.”

Download Cheap Shots

Notes to Editor

  • The Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC) report ‘into the impact of sporting shooting to (sic) the UK economy and the wider benefits of the industry’ has been commissioned by the Countryside Alliance. PACEC is a Cambridge-based economic consultancy firm. It was used by the CA in the months running up to the passage of the Hunting Bill and issued a report forecasting significant job losses in the event of a hunting ban. There is no evidence of such losses occurring.
  • For more information, contact Animal Aid’s Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
  • For full background on animal research, see the pheasant index.
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast quality interviews.

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