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It comes in the wake of last year's ruling that showground fairs were liable for 20% VAT on pitch rentals.

News that Arthur Swallow Ltd had been liquidated at the end of 2015 filtered out at the February 1-2 Lincoln fair.

Rumours that the event would close have forced directors Richard and Marc Burgoin to clarify the matter with a letter to ATG (published in this week's printed publication).

They say that, on advice, the previous company was wrapped up by the directors in mid-December 2015 (with no obligation to pay for any losses) and a second company Arthur Swallow Fairs Ltd set up in its place.

The new firm, which is now charging customers VAT on stand rents, has signed fresh agreements with its venues and contractors, guaranteeing the long-term future of the Lincoln event. All dates for Swallow fairs will remain as published with the next held on April 4-5.

Swallow also hold regular events at Donington Park and four salvage shows at Ripley Castle, Loseley Park and the Cheshire Showground.

Rule Change

The supply of space at showground fairs was - like stands at a car-boot fair or market - previously exempt from VAT.

However, the rules changed in November 2012 following EU discussions aimed at reducing the charging of cross-border VAT at international fairs and conferences. It effectively raised the cost of a stallholder's pitch by 20%.

International Antiques and Collectors' Fairs (IACF) challenged Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs on the matter.

However, at a three-day tribunal in Birmingham last July, HMRC successfully argued that the pitch leases - while often just a chalk mark in the ground - could not be seen in isolation from any add-on services such as advertising, catering and security that do attract a VAT charge.

It emerged that organisers could be liable for unpaid tax dating back to November 2012, when new rules were implemented, and possibly fines for non-payment.

At the time Richard Burgoin told ATG: "We are surprised and disappointed to hear of the outcome of the tribunal between HMRC and IACF. We are currently seeking advice regarding our position and we shall inform our customers in due course."