Campaigners against changes in VAT that affect showground fairs met for the first time at a crisis summit in London. They now intend to form a trade federation to fight the changes.
In a meeting chaired by ATG, 12 antiques and collectables fair organisers - from the very largest to much smaller scale operations - gathered at the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury to debate how to tackle the threat which they believe could put them and their stallholders out of business.
The degree of seriousness with which the issue is being taken was illustrated by one delegate who said: "This is the largest number of organisers I have ever seen in the same room together."
As reported previously, Customs and Excise are interpreting existing rules in a new way which means that stallholders at showground fairs face being charged 20% VAT on their pitch rentals. Additional European Union regulations due to be ratified in the UK reinforce the changes.
The majority of stallholders at such fairs are not VAT registered and so would not be able to reclaim the charge, and with profit margins being very low in most cases, the extra cost risks rendering their businesses unviable.
International Antiques and Collectors Fairs Ltd (IACF), who rent out over 30,000 pitches a year at Newark, Ardingly, Shepton Mallet, Swinderby and Newbury, and Alexandra Palace organisers Nelson Events have joined forces to mount a legal challenge via a VAT tribunal, which is due to rule sometime next year.
They called the summit in London where fellow organisers expressed their frustration and fears of what the changes threatened to do.
The result was the setting up of a working party to focus on the formation of a trade federation. This will then commission a study to show the likely effects on the industry, as well as developing publicity and lobbying campaigns to fight the measures.
Paul Kelly of Nelson Events, who is co-ordinating the working party with Will Harris of IACF and Alan Yourston of B2B Events, helped by ATG Editor Ivan Macquisten, said: "The next step is to gather information and support from our fellow organisers in order to build a strong case for our campaign against this threat.
"We believe there is a compelling argument that supports our cause, and we call on all antiques and collectors fair organisers to sign up as members of the federation when it is founded, as they all stand to gain by our efforts."
More details will be published as they emerge.