The Rating Game

10 May 2011

In better economic times which we all used to enjoy, rating was considered a rather unexciting topic that barely merited any attention. However, times have changed. Controlling costs is high on the agenda of most businesses and as one of the main business costs, rating liability deserves more attention.

At Osborne King, we have certainly focused more on utilising the provisions of rating legislation to ensure that our clients are availing themselves of all the reliefs and mitigation provisions to which they are entitled. Some of these exemptions and reliefs are well known such as exemption for charitable occupation (100%) and relief for industrial occupation (70%), but defining those occupations is not always easy. It requires a sound knowledge of the legislation and legal precedence.

One of the areas where we have been particularly successful is in identifying opportunities to secure 100% relief from vacant rates rather than the usual 50%. This liability often falls on landlords just at the time they can least afford it, when there is no rental income. The legislation provides 13 circumstances whereby vacant rate relief is 100%. In the last year alone, we have recovered in the region of £300,000 for ratepayers who were unaware that they were entitled to this relief. In another recent case, over £100,000 was recovered for a client as a result of an appeal where we successfully argued that the property should be taken out of the rating list altogether due to the fact it was incapable of occupation. In cases where rates have been wrongly paid, perhaps for a number of years, it is important to identify the total refund due and press the Land & Property Services Agency to secure repayment as early as possible.

It is sometimes possible to create legitimately circumstances whereby one can reduce or eliminate a rates liability altogether. If you can divide one large assessment into a number of smaller assessments of less than £2,000 each, no vacant rates is payable. Furthermore, the Small Business Rate Relief scheme operated by the Land & Property Services provides that occupied business premises with a rateable value below £2,000 benefit from 50% relief whilst an assessment between £2,000 - £5,000 receives 25% relief.

Highlighted above are just some of the opportunities available to utilise the provisions of the legislation to your advantage. Overall, there a variety of reliefs, exemptions and routes of appeal available to ratepayers. With the right advice, in my view, these may be used to your advantage to make real savings.

Please click on the image below to download a copy of the information brochure.

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