The Government and its devolved administrations have now clearly demonstrated a UK wide cohesive effort to support businesses throughout the current health crisis. As the packages of measures are announced, it has been interesting to see cross boundary comparisons and how they stack up.
Whilst Scotland and Wales followed suit with England, allowing 100% rates relief to all within the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors for one year, Northern Ireland introduced 100% rates relief for ALL subjects for three months and deferred the issue of rates bills from April to June to help all businesses with short term cash flow problems.
Retail, Leisure & Hospitality Update
Ratepayers within the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors need clarification urgently on their eligibility for these and so a guide has now been published. Click here to access to it.
Scotland has also published its list of eligible subjects here. This list is not exhaustive, omitting some subjects explicitly stated in the English list, and so we would urge all ratepayers who don’t automatically receive this relief to seek further guidance from our business rates specialists.
The additional grants announced will be available from April 2020 up until 31st March 2021 however many firms are still unsure of when and how they can access these. The Government is still working with local government on how best to deliver these. Time really is of the essence and it is crucial they are processed as quickly as possible to give firms the emergency assistance they need. The Scottish Government has advised updates on the application process will be published in due course.
This now poses questions for those sectors who are not eligible for additional relief. All Scottish properties will receive 1.6% rates relief as the inflationary increase in the UBR has been reversed and this will be automatically applied to bills issued for 2020/21. However, this won’t be enough for many and the pressure is now on to extend the relief to all.
We still remain concerned that the current reliefs and grants may not be enough to sustain businesses through this. It should also be targeted as part of the rating system through the application of material change of circumstance appeals, as Ryden reported previously.
State Aid Update
Whilst some State aid measures have been temporarily relaxed in light of the current crisis, the Government is awaiting approval from the EU to allow the Expanded Relief Discount Scheme in England to become a notified State aid, thereby no longer being subject to any de minimis limits. The Scottish Government has committed to working with the UK Government to make sure these measures can be adopted and so we eagerly await developments on this front.
Ryden will continue to provide updates and offer guidance throughout. Please contact one of our experts for further advice.