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Coronavirus – Can you claim Business Rates concessions?

Some businesses will now be able to benefit from new business rates schemes the government put in place to help businesses stay afloat.

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Business rates are a significant and often unwelcome expense. This is especially true when a business has vacant properties because of government action, and not through any fault of that business. It is no exaggeration to say that these are desperate times, and it is easy to see how the cost of business rates could for some businesses be the difference between surviving this crisis and not.  Now more than ever it is important for businesses to streamline expenses as much as possible, and some businesses will now be able to benefit from new business rates schemes the government put in place to help businesses stay afloat.

Businesses which could benefit from such concessions during the coronavirus crisis are:

(1) retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that pay business rates;
(2) support for nursery businesses that pay business rates; and
(3) support for some businesses that pay little or no businesses rates.

Retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses that pay business rates

The government is introducing a ‘business rates holiday’ for the tax year 2020/21. That means qualifying businesses will not have to pay business rates for the entire 12 months. The scheme is not subject to turnover or any further restrictions for these businesses, the aim of this concession is to help the sectors which will be hit hardest by the COVID-19 restrictions. If your business is a retail, hospitality and leisure business or a nursery business, is based in England and pays business rates, then your business could be eligible for the business rates holiday for certain properties in your portfolio.

Eligible properties in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector could include shops, restaurants, pubs, cinemas, music venues and leisure centres, and hospitality premises. Eligible properties for nursery businesses could include those occupied by providers of Ofsted’s Early Years Register or those which are mainly used for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage. At the moment there seems to be no limit to the number of eligible properties a single business can have, so your business could benefit greatly from this scheme.

Local authorities should send eligible properties a letter in the coming weeks to alert them to their entitlement to the scheme. However, in these trying times there is certainly an urgency, so it may be worth chasing the local authority for this. The local authority may need to issue a new bill to ensure that your business receives this support, but every case is different. For some larger businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector a Business Grant of £25,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 is also available from local authorities.

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

There will be additional Small Business Grant Scheme funding which is likely to come in the form of a single grant of £10,000 and is intended to assist businesses with ongoing costs. This support is available to small businesses based in England which were paying either Small Business Rate Relief (if your property’s rateable value is less than £15,000 or possibly if it uses only one property), Rural Rate Relief (this could apply to you if your business is in a rural area with a population below 3,000) or Tapered Business Rate Relief (this may apply to your business if it has a rateable value below £51,000) on 11 March 2020.

Your local authority should let you know if you are eligible, but if money is tight then it is worth chasing the local authority. Again, there is urgency to this for many businesses and every case is different.

To find out more about how your business could make the most of this concession contact the Collyer Bristow Commercial real estate team for bespoke advice.

UPDATE: In addition to the retail, leisure and hospitality sector any letting agencies, estate agents and bingo halls may also now be eligible for the business rate holiday.

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Kathryn Burke

Trainee Solicitor

kathryn.burke@collyerbristow.com