HMRC to appeal over spot the ball

Gaming company Sportech's £80 million battle with the taxman over a spot the ball competition looks set to drag into extra time after HM Revenue and Customs said it will appeal against a court defeat.

The Liverpool-based company won a court battle against HMRC in March after arguing it was incorrectly charged VAT sales tax on its competition between 1979 and 1996.

The company said HMRC plans to appeal against the ruling and will be told within four weeks whether the challenge can go ahead.

The dispute centres on whether Spot the Ball - where players win a prize if they correctly identify where a football is in a photo - is a game of skill or chance.

The company scored a victory in March when the High Court's First-tier Tribunal's Tax Chamber ruled the once-popular newspaper promotion was a game of chance, and therefore not eligible for VAT.

Sportech is claiming back the £40 million of VAT it paid on the game for 17 years, which doubles to more than £80 million once interest is included.

The football pools firm lodged its claim against the taxman in March 2009.

The company said: "The board of Sportech will continue to take appropriate legal and professional advice on the group's position, and advise shareholders accordingly."

Sportech traces its roots back to 1923 with the birth of the football pools.

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