Property Litigation

Non-Domestic Business Rates

Councils taking a hard-line approach – let Clarke Willmott take the strain

Local Councils are increasingly taking a more aggressive approach when it comes to granting empty property exemptions for non-domestic business rates.

An innovative team has been set up by Oxford City Council to tackle fraud “with a vengeance” including business rates. The council states that the fraud investigation service was so successful it paid for itself in its first month, stating ‘our team is tough, tenacious and goes after any suspicious activity or fraud with a vengeance’. The success of the scheme in Oxford will no doubt encourage other councils to adopt similar schemes and take a more aggressive approach to granting exemptions for empty properties, even on legal schemes where fraud is not an issue.

The recent proposals for reform by George Osborne for the decentralisation of business rates is a new bold frontier by giving local areas new powers over business rates.

The key features of the reform, due to come into effect by the end of the current Parliament in 2020 are:

  • If the council has a mayor, the mayors will be able to raise the business rate provided the money is spent on improving local infrastructure and has the support of business locally.
  • Under the proposals, authorities will be able to keep all the business rates that they collect from local businesses, meaning that power over £26bn of revenue from business rates will be devolved,
  • Councils will have 100% retention of the full stock of business rates by 2020, It will mean that all income from local taxes will go on funding local services.

This reform will no doubt encourage council to take a hard-line approach with regards to granting relief from business rates and rates collection.

How can Clarke Willmott help?

If you are not satisfied that the council has made the correct decisions regarding your liability for payment, our business rates team can take action as soon as there is a dispute regarding occupation, the team can act on any type of property.

For further information, please contact Caroline Wort or Simon Freeman.