Opinion: making tax bearable — Equestrian Employers Association manages the impossible *H&H Plus*

  • H&H senior news writer Lucy Elder reports on the first Equestrian Employers Association conference, at which taxation and emploment law, and their specific impacts on our industry, were on the agenda.

    The Equestrian Employers Association has been rightly praised for its inaugural conference.

    The subject of tax, and in fact anything that refers to “gov.uk for more information”, tends to be an instant snooze button. But the speakers managed to make it interesting and relevant — this wasn’t just a lecture on employment law, but real experiences from real equestrian businesses. People who have lived and fallen foul of HMRC, and those who have helped them through hideously stressful times.

    There were a number of key messages to come out of the day — the first being that the equestrian world does need to pull together if it wants to survive in the future, along with ways the EEA can help with that.Another was that this is not about “bad employers”, with the vast majority of businesses — equestrian or otherwise — wanting and trying to do the right thing, but finding themselves in hot water unintentionally. But for many, their speciality is horses — whether that is riding them, breeding them, training them or teaching people to ride them — and running a business, along with the legalities and understanding the nuances of what makes for happy staff mentally and legally, is not something that is taught in schools.

    Victoria von Wachter, of 5 Essex Court, who specialises in equestrian law and employement law among other areas, was fascinating and gave brilliant clarity on some of the pitfalls riders and others can find themselves in.

    It was scary to hear how many of HMRC’s minimum wage cases are unintentional and the numerous ways employers can unwittingly fall foul of them.

    One thing that really hit home was the discussion of the financial and emotional impact of court cases. Of course, each scenario and each case is different, but the reality that at times “court appearances are a bit like wars” in that there are instances where there are “no winners and the emotional toll it takes is often greater than the win it brings”struck a chord.

    I used to do a lot of court reporting prior to starting at Horse & Hound and that summed up the emotion in the room on a number of such occasions. It brought back vividly the first case I covered, where I naïvely thought I would feel a sense that “justice has been done”, when the reality was quite different, almost an emotional exhaustion.

    That’s to go off on a tangent — there was so much positivity in the day with real advice from those who really do “get” the equestrian industry in legal terms, passion for horses and the sense of family that this brilliant world has, both within individual yards and the wider community.

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