Cheque, mate: World’s biggest chess championship faces axe over £300k tax bill
The world’s biggest chess championship faces being wound up after its organiser was bankrupted over a £300,000 tax bill.
The prestigious Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge, which involves more than 1,200 schools and has run for 20 years, is locked in a long-running dispute with the HMRC over VAT levied on its entry fees.
Mike Basman, the competition’s founder, was handed an order of bankruptcy at the High Court in London last week, throwing the future of the competition, which staged its “terafinal” last weekend, into doubt.
The 70-year-old, from Surrey, said: “There’s no way I can pay this. I’m a chess teacher and my work is to run a tournament, not to collect tax.
“If I collect this VAT I have to fill out endless forms and hire accountants and then the schools just claim it back from the taxman anyway. There’s no point, nobody loses out.
“All that is likely to happen here is we are going to lose the biggest chess tournament in the world. We’ve had up to 70,000 children taking part in it before and it really is something special.”
This year 45,000 boys and girls nationwide have competed in the challenge, among them some of England’s top prospects.
“We are helping children develop all sorts of analytical skills and that will help them in life and it would be a huge loss,” Mr Basman said.
The volunteer and prolific chess author is calling for participation in the game to be made VAT exempt in the same way other sports are.
A change in the law in January last year allowed not-for-profit sports organisations to benefit from tax breaks intended to cut the costs of the activities.
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