Business rates retention scheme: issues & advice

Published on: 17th December 2014

Business rates played a central role in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement this year. Among the announcements, Mr Osborne said he would cap the inflation-linked increase at two per cent. He also announced a full review of the business rates structure to help High Street stores be more competitive against online retailers.

I recently spoke at the Institute of Revenues Rating & Valuation Conference in Telford about the business rates retention scheme. It was introduced by the government in 2013 to allow councils to retain up to half of the revenue generated through business rates in their area. It aims to provide a direct link between business rates growth and the amount of money councils have to spend on local people and services, stimulating economic growth and localism.

During my talk I sought to explain this extremely complex system and what issues councils might face in the next five years.

Immediate issues

One of the problems councils have faced since the introduction of the scheme is the fact that their resources have been reduced significantly in recent years thanks to austerity measures. In 2014, the average spending power of English councils will have been cut by 2.9 per cent.

These cuts have inevitably led to authorities shifting their priorities to collecting money rather than monitoring the rating list. However, because the revenue collected by finance departments from 1990 to 2013 has not been retained by local authorities, there’s concern that the list won’t be fully up to date. This is not a quick fix task though - a significant amount of time and resources should be invested in this process.

Local finance departments need to try and forecast medium and long-term budgets and the levels of business rates to be retained. However, most of them do not have the information available to accurately predict what their likely yield will be at the end of each year. There are also many variables to consider, such as whether the vacancy rate is rising or falling.

The next revaluation

Each non-domestic property has a rateable value (RV) and the ratepayer can appeal against this if they consider it’s incorrect. Because the effect of RV loss is so central to the success of the retention scheme, in last year’s Autumn Statement, Mr Osborne said he wanted all outstanding appeals as of September 2013 to be resolved by July 2015.

The government has postponed the next revaluation to 2017, which will undoubtedly lead to more appeals than in previous lists. The general feeling is that the reason for this delay was purely political and that the current government didn’t want it to coincide with the next general election. However, the Valuation Office has revealed figures that show what would have happened if the 2015 revaluation took place. For example, there would have been a 25 per cent reduction in London office rateable values as compared to a 19 per cent drop in the West Midlands.

This shows how a revaluation can have a major impact on the finances of a local authority. Previously, the pool would have absorbed regional differences and redistributed accordingly – but going forward this won’t be the case.

Advice for councils

It is important local authorities do not rely on the valuation office to verify the current list. Councils have a duty to inform the office as to whether all of the relevant ratepayers are paying business rates. They also need to be aware of all planning applications and at what stages they are at. Therefore, I’d advise local authorities to keep their own list and ensure it is regularly subject to review. By staying abreast of all proposed developments in the area and liaising with the economic development department, councils can build these into their estimates going forward.

I’d suggest that revenue departments can to do more to get to know their ratepayers and who the major players are in an area. Indeed, if a great deal of revenue is in the hands of one business, councils need to know about any plans for expansion, relocation, or indeed if it is on the brink of collapse.

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Business Rates

Sanderson Weatherall Rating specialists are RICS and IRRV qualified surveyors that can offer a comprehensive range of Rating services to clients including Rating Appeals, Rating Valuations, Rates Management and Rates Audit, together with cutting edge advice on Empty Rates mitigation. Regarded as experts in the field, all our senior staff are members of the Rating Surveyors' Association and are able to offer the very best Rates advice on the accuracy of Rating assessments and resultant Business Rates liabilities. Through our experts' memberships of the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation we are also happy to assist clients who have international local property tax liabilities. We participate in the activities of both of these professional bodies at the highest level and negotiate with government on the introduction of all new non domestic rating proposals. On the 1st April 2017 the new rating lists were published across England and Wales and from that date, businesses looking to challenge their business rates were required to do so through HMRC’s Government Gateway. If you don’t currently have an account then please follow the steps in our guide to setting up a Government Gateway account, registering properties and appointing an agent here.    Contact Us

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Sanderson Weatherall Rating specialists are RICS and IRRV qualified surveyors that can offer a comprehensive range of Rating services to clients including Rating Appeals, Rating Valuations, Rates Management and Rates Audit, together with cutting edge advice on Empty Rates mitigation.

Regarded as experts in the field, all our senior staff are members of the Rating Surveyors' Association and are able to offer the very best Rates advice on the accuracy of Rating assessments and resultant Business Rates liabilities. Through our experts' memberships of the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation we are also happy to assist clients who have international local property tax liabilities. We participate in the activities of both of these professional bodies at the highest level and negotiate with government on the introduction of all new non domestic rating proposals.

On the 1st April 2017 the new rating lists were published across England and Wales and from that date, businesses looking to challenge their business rates were required to do so through HMRC’s Government Gateway.

If you don’t currently have an account then please follow the steps in our guide to setting up a Government Gateway account, registering properties and appointing an agent here. 

 

Contact Us

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Video Guide to the 2017 Business Rates Revaluation

We have launched a seven video guide to the April 2017 Business Rates Revaluation. With the April 2017 business rates revaluation approaching, we have created a video series to help you understand what will be happening over the coming months, how the revaluation could affect your business and what you can do to plan for it.  

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We have launched a seven video guide to the April 2017 Business Rates Revaluation.

With the April 2017 business rates revaluation approaching, we have created a video series to help you understand what will be happening over the coming months, how the revaluation could affect your business and what you can do to plan for it.

 

[fulltext] =>

 

We have launched a seven video guide to the April 2017 Business Rates Revaluation.

 Our short videos look at the following questions:

 

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Business rates and their impact on further education establishments

In what has been billed as the biggest change in a generation, the process of the 2017 business rates revaluation is well under way. Richard Farr, partner in our rating team, considers what colleges and further education establishments need to know – and how they are likely to be impacted.

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In what has been billed as the biggest change in a generation, the process of the 2017 business rates revaluation is well under way. Richard Farr, partner in our rating team, considers what colleges and further education establishments need to know – and how they are likely to be impacted.

[fulltext] =>

What are business rates?

Business rates are a tax payable on non-domestic buildings, including all educational buildings, set by the Government and collected by the relevant local Council. Similar to Council Tax for domestic properties, business rates serve as a contribution towards local services.

In England and Wales, business rates are calculated according to a property’s ‘rateable value’. For colleges that were built for educational purposes, this is usually set in reference to the cost of building a new facility at the time of the last valuation date (currently 1st April 2008). Where a college or FE establishment has been converted from another use, for example an office building as is common in the London boroughs, the rateable value represents the market annual rental value at the time of the last valuation date.

This figure is then multiplied by the annual Business Rates Multiplier, which is set by the Government, to give the total amount payable before any deductions.

All further education buildings have rateable values and must pay business rates as a result, but most are eligible for reliefs through charitable status.

What changes are under way?

On 1st April 2017, new rateable values for properties around the country will be implemented. This has triggered a lengthy process, including a number of key dates throughout 2016 and 2017.

Draft rateable values were published online by the VOA (Valuation Office Agency) on 30th September, which help organisations to understand their new valuation, whilst providing an opportunity for them to tell the VOA about any errors before the new rates are applied from April. For the first time, this information has only been made available online via the VOA website, and they won't be sending out printed valuations.

How will it impact FE establishments?

Most organisations including colleges are likely to experience a change in their business rates as a result of the business rates revaluation. This is because the valuation date is set two years before the last revaluation and since there has not been a revaluation since 1st April 2010, local authorities in England and Wales are still basing their business rates bills on 2008 figures. This will change next year, as all non-domestic properties in England and Wales will be reassessed based on a valuation date of 1st April 2015.

Sanderson Weatherall has a network of offices across the UK and working with educational buildings in different regions has shown us some interesting variations. In the London boroughs, for example, many colleges have seen an increase to their rateable value because the rental value of their property has increased considerably since 2008.

Outside of the M25, where it is usually more common to have purpose-built colleges (rather than converted buildings), many will have noticed a more modest increase in rateable values. Our own research shows building costs rose by around ten per cent between 2008 and 2015, due in part to the cost of materials such as steel and concrete, and this has been reflected.

Any establishment that has extended or refurbished their facilities since that time, or changed the use of a building, is also likely to have found that their rateable value has changed.

What happens next?

Although the draft rateable values have now been published, colleges will not be able to calculate their new business rates until the Government announces the multiplier in January. New rates bills will be issued on 1st March 2017 and the revaluation comes into effect from 1st April.

The important thing is to seek advice from a qualified rating advisor as soon as possible to make sure you are not paying over the odds. They can assess your draft rateable values and analyse whether you are entitled to a reduction in your business rates.

To watch our business rates revaluation video guide, please click here.

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