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Are Freemasons’ Aims Philanthropic? The United Grand Lodge UT Case: Latest Court Update

  • The Upper Tribunal (UT) case of United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) dealt with whether subscriptions paid by freemasons are exempt from VAT.
  • UGLE claimed that its subscription income was exempt, but HMRC declined to make the repayments.
  • UGLE is an unincorporated association with approximately 175,000 members and 6,500 local Lodges.
  • An organization can still be exempt if it has multiple aims, as long as all the aims are listed in the legislation.
  • The First-Tier Tribunal concluded that UGLE’s services were not exempt from VAT and that UGLE does not have a civic aim.
  • The judge decided that the supplies made by UGLE in return for subscription payments should be standard rated.
  • The motives of the members in joining the organization are irrelevant.
  • UGLE has aims of a philosophical, philanthropic, and civic nature, but they are not considered the main or primary aims.
  • Providing support for freemasons and their dependants in need is considered one of the main aims of freemasonry and UGLE.


Note that this post was (partially) written with the help of AI. It is always useful to review the original source material, and where needed to obtain (local) advice from a specialist.


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