Economia: Freemasons lose VAT exemption appeal

Freemasons lose VAT exemption appeal

18 November 2015

Jessica Fino

Brother Blair and Bro. Hitchens at the Munk Debate in Toronto, Ontario
A jovial Bro. Tony Blair and Bro. Christopher Hitchens making Masonic handsign ‘recognition gestures’ prior to the Munk Debate in Toronto, Ontario in 2010.

The High Court has upheld a decision by the First-Tier Tax tribunal that The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE)- otherwise known as The Freemasons – should not be exempt from VAT

The Freemasons’ claim centred around whether or not its activities could be defined as being of a “philosophical, philanthropic or civic nature”, which would have therefore made it exempt from VAT. An earlier tribunal hearing ruled that they did not, but UGLE was granted leave to appeal.

The Upper Tier Tax Tribunal ruled that while UGLE had some philosophical and philanthropic aims, it also had “other aims” which did not fall within the exception.

It said, “In our opinion, the aims which did not fall within the exemption were not insignificant and were of sufficient magnitude to cause UGLE to fall outside the words of the exemption in Article 132. Accordingly we dismiss the appeal.”

Judge Justice Asplin said the first-tier tribunal did not “err in law” when it dismissed UGLE’s appeal in February last year following an initial decision from HMRC in 2010.

An UGLE spokesperson told economia, “United Grand Lodge of England is disappointed with the decision and consideration will be given regarding taking this to the Court of Appeal.”

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