Bira raises concerns on business rates discount discrepancies

The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) says it has become aware of a lack of uniformity in the way local authorities are implementing the 30% discount for businesses with a rateable value below £51,000 – with some automatically applying it, whilst others requiring a form to be filled in.

Bira said it was delighted when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the discount in his October 2018 budget, stating that it would be applied to all retail premises (below the £51,000 threshold), and businesses would still receive the small business rates reliefs (applicable to businesses with a rateable value below £12,000).

Bira ceo Andrew Goodacre said: “This was a real win for the smaller independent retail businesses and a real reward for Bira’s campaign to reduce the burden of business rates.

We have continued our work by challenging the local authorities to implement the 30% discount in the most expedient way, so that all relevant businesses receive this much needed discount. We have already written to the LGA [Local Government Association] reminding them to support retail businesses by making it easy to claim the discounts.”

But, Bira claims, ‘it appears the implementation may not be as uniform as we were hoping for, mainly due to the different legacy systems used by local authorities. This is relevant because an independent retail business may have premises in more than one local authority or council, and it would be a mistake to expect the same treatment from each authority’.

Andrew explained: “Councils have had five months to prepare for the reduction in rates and whilst some have been quick to act and are automatically applying the discount, others are woefully behind – and small retail businesses will suffer as a result.

“We have also been informed by one of our members that their council has stated that the bills may not be adjusted, which is hugely damaging to the business’ cash flow.”

Bira recommends that retailers contact their local authority (for each of their premises if they have more than one) and establish how their local authority or council intends to implement the rates discounts.

The association said some local authorities who are ready and prepared will automatically reduce the rates bill but others are asking retail businesses to complete a form to apply for the discount. ‘Either way,’ Bira stressed, ‘it’s really important that retailers take the initiative and contact the authorities so they are well prepared’.

Andrew added: “Together we have fought hard to obtain this discount and it would be a real shame if any business paid more rates than it needed to.”

 

Bira ceo Andrew Goodacre

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One comment

  1. The retail relief discount will be subject to State Aid rules and therefore the 200K euro limit on funding over 3 years will apply. Local Authorities have a duty to ensure that they are satisfied these rules do not apply to affected ratepayers hence why some will require a completed signed form. Others who may apply the relief automatically should contact affected ratepayers to advise them that they need to notify the Council if they do not qualify and the relief will then be removed. The application of this relief along with all other available local discounts is a complicated process and Local Authorities will have had to wait for new software to be supplied following MHCLG guidance. This is not an easy undertaking especially as the type of use of premises will need to be established, something not necessarily available from the valuation office description. Local Authorities have a significant burden to award this in a very short space of time so please bear with them. Also, the discount if applied will be a reduction of one third after all other funded reliefs, not the 30% in your article

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