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News - 19/07/2018

Business rates boost for British museums

Some of Britain’s biggest museums are hoping to have their business rates liabilities slashed, following a landmark legal victory by York Museums Trust (YMT) in 2017.

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Following the business rates revaluation in 2017, museums across England and Wales amassed a total rateable value of £216m, a staggering 48% increase from the previous Rating List. For a sector that has faced significant funding cuts and, many of which now operate at a loss, the potential effects of the resulting increase in rates liabilities could be crippling.

However, YMT’s landmark legal case at Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), which effectively overturned the Valuation Office Agency’s (VOA) standard practice of valuing museums by reference to the cost of rebuilding with valuations based on the net surplus income, now means that loss making museums will have a Rateable Value of £1, saving them millions in rates liabilities.

Colin Hunter, Director in our Business Rates team who was instrumental in securing the victory for YMT, has begun to successfully apply the decision when appealing other museums business rates liabilities.

To date, he has negotiated reductions in rateable value totalling over £825,000 for museum operators including Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, Mary Rose Trust and Wythall Transport Museum, with many other appeals in the pipeline.

Colin commented: “Museums are an essential part of our heritage, not to mention the UK’s visitor economy, and business rates are a significant threat to their existence. We are therefore delighted to be assisting some of the 1,000+ museum operators across the country in reducing their liabilities, which will help offset the cuts in funding that the sector has faced for several years and enable them to continue to provide an eye-opening, immersive learning experience for years to come.

“However, the battle isn’t over yet as the VOA is still looking for reasons to overturn the YMT decision so that only a select few benefit. We therefore recommend any museum operator, loss-making or not, seek professional advice to ensure they capitalise on this potentially short lived opportunity.”

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