The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) have become aware of a lack of uniformity in the way local authorities are implementing the hard-fought 30 percent discount for businesses with a rateable value below £51,000, with some automatically applying it, whilst others require a form to be filled in.
In October 2018, Bira were delighted when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the discount in his budget. He said that this reduction would be applied to all retail premises (below the £51,000 threshold) and businesses would still receive the small business rates reliefs (applicable to businesses with a rateable value below £12,000).
Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s CEO said: “This was a real win for the smaller independent retail businesses and a real reward for Bira’s campaign to reduce the burden of business rates.
“We have continued our work by challenging the local authorities to implement the 30% discount in the most expedient way so that all relevant businesses receive this much needed discount. We have already written to the LGA (Local Government Association), reminding them to support retail businesses by making it easy to claim the discounts.”
However, it appears the implementation may not be as uniform as Bira were hoping for, mainly due to the different legacy systems used by local authorities. This is relevant because an independent retail business may have premises in more than one local authority or council and it would be a mistake to expect the same treatment from each authority.
Andrew said: “Councils have had five months to prepare for the reduction in rates and whilst some have been quick to act and are automatically applying the discount, others are woefully behind and small retail businesses will suffer as a result. We have also been informed by one of our members that their council has stated that the bills may not be adjusted, which is hugely damaging to the business’ cash flow.”
Bira recommends retailers contact their local authority, (for each of their premises if they have more than one) and establish how their local authority or council intends to implement the rates discounts. Some local authorities who are ready and prepared will automatically reduce the rates bill but others are asking retail businesses to complete a form to apply for the discount. Either way, it is really important that retailers take the initiative and contact the authorities so they are well prepared.
Andrew added: “Together we have fought hard to obtain this discount and it would be a real shame if any business paid more rates than it needed to.”