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Covid-19 Business Rates Assistance at a Glance

8th April 2020

Despite the government’s best efforts to date, it’s now clear that we need further rating measures to support business through the current health crisis. Ryden has been liaising with the RICS, Scottish Property Federation and lobbying the Scottish Government to significantly improve the relief options available to ratepayers at this time.

Temporary relief has been introduced for the retail, leisure, and hospitality and aviation sectors from 1st April 2020, however some issues still remain:

  • The relief is an occupied relief for the above sectors only (including those temporarily forced to close due to Covid-19). Landlords cannot re-let anything that’s vacant and may be faced with large rates burdens and so we believe a moratorium on rates payments should be exercised.
  • No relief is currently available for those office or industrial properties which, following government recommendations, have closed temporarily. Empty Property Relief is not being applied where they are not free of furniture and other moveable objects.
  • MCC appeals have been lodged by Ryden against RV’s to protect our clients’ interests however it may be some time before local assessors are able to consider the merits and revise rateable values. Legislation from 1st April 2020 to further restrict MCC appeals in Scotland remains a cause for concern and once again emphasises the flaws inherent within the current rating system as there is limited scope to appeal business rates due to exceptional circumstances such as the threat from Covid-19.
  • Grants are being issued “per business” in Scotland but more generously “per property” in England. Grants are subject to state aid de minimis limits of €800,000 euros (temporarily relaxed from €200,000 euros) in both Scotland and England.

It is reassuring to see local authorities working to prioritise implementation of the new measures. The good news is that relief will be automatically applied to bills for those in the sectors identified for this relief and grants are being issued with 10 working days of a completed application. This will significantly help many businesses with cash flow at this time. Further welcome news is that de minimis state aid limits are temporarily extended for grants and confirmation that the new relief measures will not be subject to State aid limits.

The list of qualifying properties under retail, leisure and hospitality has been published in England and published in Scotland.

These lists are not exhaustive and naturally there will be varying uses within the qualifying categories and so the relief may not be applied in all cases. As it is for local authorities to determine for themselves whether particular properties are broadly similar in nature to those listed in the guidance and use their discretion, we remain concerned about how this will be applied in practice and ask you to seek guidance from our rates experts should relief not be applied.

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