The shooting industry’s £20 million tax dodge exposed

Posted on the 14th December 2006

A government investigation into tax evasion by the shooting industry has uncovered evidence of non-payment of VAT that could amount to more than £20 million.

The crackdown by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) follows six years of research and campaigning by Animal Aid that has included the publication of three major reports exposing VAT avoidance – as well as non payment of business rates – by enterprises involved in the production and shooting of ‘gamebirds’. Our dossiers were passed on to HMRC, and a senior official of the agency was given a comprehensive briefing by Animal Aid.

Shoots have been able to avoid VAT payments by sheltering under the zero-VAT dispensation granted to producers of food. Many shoots are operated by farmers or take place on agricultural land and it has been a simple matter to pass off commercial shooting – which is liable for VAT – as the production of food, which is free from VAT payments.

News of the VAT crackdown has been published in oneHMRC, the tax authority’s staff magazine. HMRC’s Norwich office received approval to conduct a pilot study, says a report in the journal. ‘[They] visited five businesses and found all of them owed VAT. So the pilot was extended – they went to a hundred shooting businesses, generating an average extra tax take of £19,000 a visit. Then they went national to check over 1,200. Indications are they’re getting the same sort of results. The pilot ends in March. It’s a wonderful project with spectacular results.’

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘Animal Aid has worked for many years to expose not just the cruelty of shooting but the way the industry cheats the public purse. Now the tax authority has got the message and is uncovering evidence of massive non-payment of due taxes. The amount withheld could easily exceed £20 million. We look forward to the cheats being speedily brought to book.’

Coinciding with news of the HMRC action, comes the publication by Animal Aid of a major new report revealing that the shooting industry is essentially ‘unregulated and out of control’. A Law Unto Themselves demonstrates that the very organisations charged with setting policy and regulating toothless codes of practice include the most fanatical bloodsports enthusiasts in positions of authority. It exposes links between shooting and wildlife crime.

In particular, A Law Unto Themselves throws a spotlight on the Game Conservancy Trust (GCT) – an influential body with charity status that publishes invariably shoot-friendly ‘scientific’ reports into the impact of breeding and killing gamebirds. In reality, concludes the new report, the GCT is a pressure group for bloodsports, with some of its key figures running their own shooting operations.

More Information

  • For full background and interviews, contact Animal Aid’s Andrew Tyler or Kit Davidson on 01732 364546.
  • ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews.

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