Does the budget go far enough on business rates?

The Chancellor delivered his budget for recovery this week. As expected, there was some help for business ratepayers, but not as much as was needed.

Relief

The government will continue to provide eligible retail, hospitality, and leisure properties in England with:

  • 100% business rates relief from 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021 
  • This will be followed by 66% business rates relief for the period from 1 July 2021 to 31 March 2022, capped at £2 million per business for properties that were required to be closed on 5 January 2021, or £105,000 per business for other eligible properties 
  • Nurseries will also qualify for relief in the same way as other eligible properties.

Grants

  • Restart Grants in England of up to £6,000 per premises for non-essential retail businesses 
  • Up to £18,000 per premises for hospitality and other sectors that are opening later. 

Plus, an additional £425 million of discretionary business grant funding for local authorities to distribute.

Although we are pleased that significant certainty has been given to occupiers of retail and leisure premises, such clarity hasn't been afforded to occupiers of other commercial premises such as offices and industrial properties.

It has come as no surprise that reliefs have not been made available to landlords or the leaseholders of vacant premises or those falling outside the extended retail relief criteria that have had to pay their rates throughout the crisis.

Whilst the government has frozen the national multiplier at 51.2p (49.9p for small properties), there are still thousands of checks within the appeal system lodged against rateable values attached to all categories of property since the first lockdown commenced and nearly 12 months on, there is a lack of detail surrounding the timeline for settlement and the negotiation of allowances. This along with the delay of the fundamental review of business rates which has now been pushed back to Autumn 2021, doesn’t give comfort to all ratepayers.

An interim report of the fundamental review will be issued on the 23 March 2021, which may provide some guidance as to the future of the rating system and what may lie ahead for all ratepayers.

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