Speaking at the daily coronavirus press conference on Tuesday 17 March 2020, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed an extension of the business rates Retail Discount scheme to all ratepayers in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.
The Government initially agreed a 12-month exemption for occupied retail properties with a rateable value of less than £51,000 in the Budget on 11 March 2020. However, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s social distancing measures announced on Monday 16 March 2020, which include avoiding pubs, clubs and theatres in a bid to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the Government extended the relief to all properties in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors irrespective of their rateable value.
Commenting, Paul Nash, Director of Business Rates, said:
“There has been no detail yet as to exactly which properties will qualify, but shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels should all benefit from the 12 month exemption. Whether this extends to other leisure and hospitality-related properties, such as golf courses and marinas, remains to be seen.”
For those properties that do not benefit from the exemption, the impact of the coronavirus outbreak itself may constitute grounds for appealing a property’s rateable value on the basis of a Material Change in Circumstance, although the Valuation Office Agency has suggested it would resist such appeals.
Additionally, properties which are mothballed or partially vacated could also qualify for empty rates relief of up to six months depending on property type.
“These are incredibly worrying times for business owners who are already struggling from a myriad of macro-economic issues. We strongly recommend seeking professional advice from a qualified rating surveyor as there may well be opportunities to minimise your business rates liabilities in the short to medium-term, which will hopefully alleviate some of the financial pressure.”
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