Historic High Court win for Listowel Race Company.

The Listowel Race Company was successful in its recent High Court appeal against the Revenue Commissioner’s decision not to grant it an exemption from certain corporation or income tax as a sporting body under the 1997 Taxes Consolidation Act.

he ruling by Ms Justice Marie Baker is expected to yield a refund of up € 100,000 for the North Kerry track, and is likely to make it easier for other racetracks in Ireland to avail of the exemption.

In 2012, Revenue refused Listowel Race Company’s application for tax relief on its income under the 1997 Taxes Consolidation Act as it did not accept horse racing was established specifically for the promotion of an athletic or amateur game or sport.

Revenue stated that Listowel Race Company’s income did not apply solely for promoting its activities, and also that it was Horse Racing Ireland, rather than Listowel Race Company, who carried out and controlled every element of racing at the track.

Listowel Race Company argued that it should be eligible, as a sporting organization and venue, for the tax exemption.

It said all the income it derives from ticket sales, rental income, betting, media rights, catering and from other on-site facilities, is reinvested back into the racetrack for its upkeep. Directors of the company are not paid a salary.

Ms Justice Marie Baker disagreed with Revenue’s assertion that horse racing is not an ‘athletic activity’ if by that description it is intended to exclude from the definition a sport which is played professionally.

She said sport had changed a great deal since tax exemptions were first introduced for the promotion of local sports, dating back as far as the Finance Act of 1927.

Judge Baker outlined that sport is now a profession for some, a business for others, yet remains a purely recreational activity for a great number more.

She stated her judgment took into consideration many of the fundamental ideas about what sport is, but more precisely whether a particular sporting activity falls within the meaning of the legislation that allows for the statutory exemption.

Judge Baker said Revenue failed to have regard to the fact horse riding is a sport or physical activity engaged in by hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the country, young and old.

She also did not see why the Tax Appeal Commissioner is of the view horse racing is not a sport when other equine pursuits were ‘treated as sports’ for the purposes of the tax exemption.

The important contribution of the Listowel Harvest Festival to the local community, economy, and way of life in north Kerry since the 19th Century, was also raised.

Judge Baker’s decision is a landmark one for horse racing as it is likely other racetracks will seek to apply for the special tax exemption.

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