Changes to the retail relief scheme

The British Retail Consortium have reported that there has been a growth in high street retail sales from April to June rising 28.4% from a year ago and up 10.4% from 2019. This is clearly welcome news to the retail community with the hope that sales will remain healthy over the summer, in particular with the easing of restrictions on 19 July.

Although these figures are positive, the removal of 100% rate relief is not as welcome. Especially for some businesses within the leisure industry that are impacted and have, as yet, been unable to reopen.

From 1 July the retail relief scheme changed, reducing the amount of relief available for qualifying rate payers to 66% (up to a maximum of £2 million) for all properties per company.

Had the original date for the easing of restrictions not changed this reduced level of relief would have kicked in after 21 June, when all businesses could once again operate at full capacity. However, the four-week delay, to 19 July, in lifting final restrictions, though not intended, has resulted in some ratepayers, for instance nightclub owners, being faced with rate liability for a period prior to being allowed to open.

And being allowed to re-open isn’t the end of the struggle. Retailers will still face major challenges in a post lockdown world and their occupational costs, including business rates, will clearly have an impact on their fight for survival. Although government is legislating against appeals seeking reductions in rateable value for COVID-19 related events it is still important, and possible, to challenge the rateable value attached to a property, particularly if it hasn't been challenged already.

For the owners and leaseholders of properties that have unfortunately closed or remain vacant, after the initial three-month exemption has expired, full empty rates will be payable against the vast majority. We specialise in the provision of advice on empty property rates and how to mitigate this liability. There are tried and tested methods which are lawful and can reduce the burden of this tax.

Either occupied or vacant it is important to consider your rate liability and the ways in which reducing the burden of this liability can be achieved. Please speak with us and we can advise fully and tailor our advice to your individual situation.

For further information please contact Ryan Jones.

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