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Rating Talking Heads: September 2023

Business Rates Avoidance and Evasion

This event runs as an informal discussion with a small panel of leading and informed practitioners extracting the nuances from the selected topic. They discuss practical issues that arise, with participants in the meeting being encouraged to listen, join in, ask questions and share comments.

Module Duration: 1 hour 3 minutes

Recorded: 21/09/2023

Areas covered

Please note there are no slides accompanying this recording. 

During this discussion, we will cover the following:

  • The history and emergence or empty rates taxation and their subsequent mitigation strategies
  • The principle of taxing activity not inactivity - is it fair to tax inactivity? 
  • Not all occupiers are the same – trading activity -v- charity -v- local government or central government.
  • The difference between reliefs and exemptions.
  • Why temporary and permanent make a difference?
  • Sequential and rotating occupation and resetting empty rate periods
  • The current rules surrounding empty rates liabilities and some schemes that have tried to side step them.
  • What does case law permit or not?
  • What does the government seek to change in the consultation?
    • Change the reset period from 6 weeks to 3 or 6 months.
    • Introduce a limit to the number of times a property can benefit from EPR in a given period.
    • Amend the Non-Domestic Rating (Unoccupied Property) Regulations 2008 and specify conditions for what can be considered as occupied property for the purposes of rates relief. A suggested condition would be to require that more than 50% of a property’s floor space is occupied.
    • Provide funding to enable local authorities to exercise discretionary powers to award or withhold relief to ratepayers.
    • Scrap the “when next in use” provision. This would mean that ratepayers could no longer claim relief if a property is to be occupied or likely to be occupied by a charity or CASC.
    • Create additional eligibility criteria for ratepayers claiming relief. The consultation paper does not provide any suggested criteria.
    • Provide funding to local authorities and enable them to use existing statutory power of discretion to award or withhold relief to ratepayers.
  • What do they want to see outlawed and what will they accept. What about the various shades of grey in between?
    • New duties created by the Non-Domestic Rating Bill (“NDR”) are intended to combat avoidance and evasion practices. If passed, the NDR will require ratepayers to report details (including occupation information and timings of occupation) to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
  • What is response of different stakeholders to possible reform?
  • The behaviour of business rates agents.

September's Talking Heads