OSBORNE ANNOUNCES BUSINESS RATES DEFERRAL SCHEME IN AUTUMN STATEMENT

In his Autumn Statement, chancellor George Osborne announced that the current non-domestic rates holiday for small business will be extended from October 2012 to April 2013.

The holiday offers 100% relief on business rates for premises with a Rateable Value of up to £6,000, with progressively smaller amounts of relief on Rateable Values up to £12,000.

The chancellor also announced a 2 year business rate deferral scheme, similar to the scheme trialled in 2009. This means that businesses will be able to defer 60% of the rate increase planned for April 2012, to the following two years.

While the business rates holiday and deferral scheme could help some struggling businesses, April 2012 will see many more businesses suffer as a result of the planned rates rise of 5.6% – the biggest rise since 1991.

The deferral scheme in particular is being seen as a double-edged sword. On one hand, businesses are grateful for the impact this will have on their cash flow problems, however experts warn that the previous deferral scheme was less than helpful to tens of thousands of businesses who were incorrectly summonsed for payments which had been miscalculated by their local authorities.

For more information on the deferral scheme and how this may affect your rates liability, contact our team of expert Surveyors on 0800 883 0353 or email enquiries@ruddlemerz.co.uk.

WELSH ASSEMBLY TO REVIEW POLICIES

The Welsh Government has appointed an independent working group to address the issue of the struggling economy and the potential impact of rates on the sustainability of businesses.

The group will investigate whether current policy meets the needs of Welsh business and review policy on small business rate relief, empty property rates and other rate reliefs.

Enterprise Minister Edwina Hart said “The review will be short, sharp and robust. It is important that we look at all aspects of business rates policy in Wales.”

It is expected that the independent working group will release a report in draft form by the end of February 2012.

VOA RESHUFFLES IN BID TO IMPROVE EFFICIENCY

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has restructured in a bid to improve customer service.

In November 2011 the 21 Group Offices, which dealt with both council tax and business rates, were re-organized into 8 new Non-domestic Rates Units and 5 new Council Tax Units.

To support this change, the VOA has re-organised management structure so there is a separate Listing Officer for Council Tax and Valuation Officer for Non-domestic Rates at each Unit.

More information and contact details for each Unit can be found on the VOA’s website at www.voa.gov.uk

GOVERNMENT APPROACH TO BUSINESS RATES IS STUNTING ECONOMIC GROWTH

As ministers prepare to address Mary Portas’s damning report of the British high street, and the ACS (Assoc. Convenience Stores) launches a campaign against the business rates increase in April, experts are calling for the Government to revise other current policies which they say are stifling economic growth.

Recent reforms, such as rate relief for small businesses and changes to empty space relief are stunting business growth, rather than encouraging it, says Sarah Davey, who has held senior positions within the VOA (Valuation Office Agency) and is now head of business rates consultancy Ruddle Merz London.

“The extension of rates relief for small businesses applies to less than one per cent of the smallest businesses in the UK,” she said. “If any of those businesses start to grow they then find themselves hit with a huge rates bill, so as soon as they start to prosper, they are penalised for it.

“Small businesses actually managing to grow in the current economy are the key to reviving it. The Government needs to build a more supportive system which fosters the growth of small businesses, not stifles it.”

Two other Government initiatives called into question are the recent rates deferral scheme, which was originally trialled in 2010, and the revision of empty space policy.

Sarah Davey also said: “Theoretically, rates deferment aims to help businesses hit hardest by the economic downturn, but all it does is simply give them the option to put off the inevitable.

“Those that take up the offer because they cannot afford to pay their rates bill will simply get a much bigger one further down the line, when there’s no guarantee that their finances will be in better shape.”.

Empty space relief for empty business space was reduced in 2008 to just three months for office premises and six months for industrial premises and has seen the government subsequently collect an extra £1 billion in rates.

She added: “Initially we were told that the shift in legislation on empty space was to stop new buildings standing vacant, but we now have more empty shops and offices that ever, and the revised policy is making things worse.

“The previous empty rates relief system, whereby businesses rates bills were halved until occupied encouraged property investment, development, and acquisition – something that is desperately needed to jump-start the economy. The system we now have penalises those speculating and investing in property, which has a knock-on effect on numerous different industries.

“Following Mary Portas’s recommendations, the Government is about to set wheels in motion that will affect every business in the country. We can only hope that they consider the long term future of the British economy before the Government’s short term financial goals”.

CONTINUED EXPANSION OF RUDDLE MERZ LONDON

Ruddle Merz London continues to make its mark on the world of business rates in London, with a new office for the RML team and two new starters.

The new offices at 1 Alie Street, previously known as the Bank of America headquarters, are centrally located near Aldgate Station and provide extra room for the growing team.

Senior Surveyor Andrew Beale broadens RML’s depth of expertise in the disciplines of rating and lease consultancy. He has previously given advice to major national companies such as Marks & Spencer, JS Sainsbury and Royal Mail and is keenly aware of the difference that timely and focused property advice can make to client savings in costs of occupation.

Business Development Manager Marcus Elias has had many years experience in the training industry before successfully transferring into the development of professional surveying businesses. He has joined Ruddle Merz London with an expert eye for identifying potential savings in the property costs for new and prospective clients and is enthusiastically supporting the growth and quality of services offered by our company.

To find out how Ruddle Merz London could assist your business with a range of property related matters, including business rate reviews and landlord and tenant work, contact us today on 0800 883 0353.