Propcos, corporate occupiers, pension funds…have your say

Business rates are the bane of most corporate occupiers but bring in £30bn for the Government each year. After years of assurances, the Government has launched what it calls a “fundamental” review of the business rates system. There is a call for evidence and it is important for all those affected to have their say.

Whilst the Government has made no secret that it wishes to continue with some form of tax on non-domestic property, it has promised to look at the overall effect of property taxes on the business community and to search for better ways of implementing a commercial property tax.

Part of the review focuses on improvements to the current system, where things have never run smoothly from a ratepayer’s perspective. The next Rating List has been pushed back to 2023 and the unloved Check Challenge Appeal system is overloaded with Covid-19 appeals. The review has also undertaken to review the reliefs available to occupiers, which have generated litigation over the years but which are now well-understood by businesses.

If the Government is committed to finding a better way of taxing commercial property then it is incumbent upon commercial property owners and occupiers to have their say in the Government’s call for evidence:

Comments regarding multipliers and reliefs should be submitted by 18 September, with other responses due by 31 October.

Why should it concern me?

  • Corporate occupiers will pay almost half their rent to the Government by way of business rates
  • The pandemic has accelerated the trend towards online retail and way of life; business rates penalise  ‘bricks and mortar’ occupiers
  • The risk is that the Government does not want to lose its revenue stream so the review skirts around the edges or, worse, looks to limit reliefs available to ratepayers
  • The review includes references to alternatives to business rates, none of which appear particularly attractive and could see certain occupiers paying more, such as a tax on capital values and/or an online sales tax
  • This is not just a matter for corporate occupiers or landlords. Pension funds invest heavily in commercial property and are significantly affected by drops in value. Take, for example, changes to empty property relief. Nobody – landlord, tenant, investor, developer – wants to sit on empty property yet the Government insists on taxing it as if it were occupied. If reliefs are taken away which mitigate the burden of empty property taxation then this will have a multi-million pound effect on balance sheets.
  • The Government, in its review paper, makes it clear that business rates are “efficient to collect, with low risks from avoidance and evasion”. With large sections of the commercial property industry already struggling to combat the effects of online retail, home-working, Brexit and the pandemic it is hoped that the Government will be sensitive to the industry’s plight and will sidestep actions which will increase the burden further. 

Further advice

If you need further advice on this topic, please get in touch with the writer, who leads our Business Rates team

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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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