A COMMUNITY bowls club has been told it must pay a £50,000 VAT bill after rebuilding its clubhouse despite challenging it at court.

Witney Town Bowls Club which dates to 1910, rebuilt the clubhouse and pitches on The Leys in Witney last year at a cost of £270,000.

It replaced a dilapidated, badly insulated wooden building with poor kitchen and toilet facilities.

The club believed it would not have to pay VAT on its new facilities because it would be seen as a community organisation.

But an appeal against the bill was thrown out by Judge Ashley Greenbank at an Oxford hearing. In his judgement ,Mr Greenbank said: “Although the clubhouse is intended for use in providing social or recreational facilities for a local community, it is not intended for such use as a village hall or similarly.

“The club is treated as carrying on a business for VAT purposes.

“It provides facilities for its members who pay a subscription.

“The fact that those subscriptions are, in effect, subsidised by Witney Town Council and that the club does not seek to make a profit does not affect the analysis.”

Under current law, only a registered charity or a club registered as a community amateur sports club is exempt from VAT.

The club must have a limited income and must be open to the whole community not just to private members.

Club secretary Alan Scholan said: “We’re a community-minded sports club and we find it a bit galling that this obstacle is put in the way of local sports clubs to improve their facilities.”

Mr Scholan said the club will now have to start a fundraising drive for the cash to pay the tax bill.

He said improving the facilities is a vital part of the club’s survival as it attracts new members.

He added: “We would like to see a change in the law so that the exemption is extended from charities to sports clubs.”