'The taxman owes us £30k' says Northampton WMC stalwart..and he won't stop until he gets it

A Northampton Working Men's Club bookkeeper is in the midst of a David versus Goliath battle against the taxman after a £30,000 betting machine dispute.

Friday, 2nd March 2018, 6:36 am
Updated Friday, 2nd March 2018, 7:44 am
Barry Slasberg is taking a fight over VAT to the taxman and he is hoping other working men's clubs around the country will join him.
Barry Slasberg is taking a fight over VAT to the taxman and he is hoping other working men's clubs around the country will join him.

Back in 2006, pubs, bingo halls and working men's clubs across the UK demanded Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) pay them back millions in tax payments.

The legal action, led by the Mecca Bingo owners RANK Group, argued their Fixed Odds Betting Terminals - effectively gambling game machines - should not have been subject to VAT.

HMRC paid out in 2011 and Kingsley Working Men's Club in Northampton received around £34,000 in rebate.

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But three years later a Court of Appeal Ruling appeared to find in the HMRC's favour and all the clubs who had received rebates were then ordered to pay them back to the taxman.

Kingsley WMC's bookkeeper - who has a track record for taking on the powers that be - Barry Slasberg is now trying to lead a revolt.

He claims the court of appeal ruling made no reference of the type of "B4" video game jackpot machines fitted at clubs around the country.

Grandfather of two Mr Slasberg says that many of the 400 working men's clubs across the country were crushed financially by having to repay their hard won rebate - and many may have closed down.

Now, as a former national executive member of the working men's club union, he is trying to gather the industry together to mount an appeal.

He said: "That money paid to us in 2011 wasn't a cash mountain, it filled a black hole for an industry in freefall.

"When we had to pay it back I was gutted."

Mr Slasberg, 70, of Fairway, Kingsley, an experienced accountant, has already beaten the taxman twice in legal battles.

He says that the appeal court ruling that found in HMRC's favour only referred to the random number generators machines found in bingo halls and not the fixed odds machines at Kingsley and other clubs.

"When we got the letter from HMRC, it said the court had ruled in their favour, but that was a straight lie," he said.

"Even the parliamentary ombudsman has said the club should not have been affected by the court of appeal decision."

But he believes working men's clubs, bamboozled by the various different court rulings and unwilling to take on the taxman, have simply given up the fight and paid the money back without reading the fine print in the Appeal Court ruling.

He recently held a keynote speech at the Working Men's Club and Institute Union annual conference to try and gather support for a legal action.He has also been in contact with the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Alongside working men's clubs, the appeal ruling affected some 2,500 other pubs and businesses around the UK.

"I am just trying to raise public awareness of this," said Mr Slasberg.

"I am determined that I am going to win this case no matter what."

"We could try and take it to court but we just don't have the resources.

"The only option we have is to publicly shame HMRC - to make a big hoo-ha.

"We are not looking for payouts - we are looking for justice."

HMRC has been contacted for comment.