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International Antiques and Collectors Fairs (IACF), who challenged Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs on the matter, say they will not appeal the July 15 ruling.

The matter set before the three-day tribunal at Priory Courts, Birmingham, was whether pitch rentals at showground fairs were VAT exempt on the grounds of them being simply either a 'licence to occupy land' or the 'leasing or letting of immovable property'.

Contesting IACF's claims that they should be exempt, HMRC argued that exhibitors received additional services, such as security, cleaners, marshals, catering, toilets, advertising, and even blogging and social media.

Few fair organisers currently charge VAT and it is unclear how liable they are for unpaid tax on pitches dating back to 2012, when the matter first arose.

Following the tribunal, IACF chairman Keith Harris was told that it was up to organisers and their advisers to decide whether or not they were liable, not for HMRC to guide them. Those who decide they are not liable but later find that they are will not only have to pay all the backdated VAT, but will also face a fine.

Harris told ATG: "We took this case on not just for ourselves but on behalf of the whole antiques fairs industry and we are disappointed that we lost, but having spent £150,000 on legal fees alone we don't have the appetite to go to appeal."