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What impact will record inflation have on business rates?


Business rates revaluations are scheduled at certain times, but if these occur during period of high inflation the new fix could put businesses and commercial landlords at risk.

Though business tenants are liable to pay business rates, landlords should be concerned because they become liable themselves should the building become vacant.

Business rates and inflation

If inflation remains at the present level (around 10 per cent) the upcoming rates revaluation due in April next year could result in the rating list being fixed at a level that's far too high for comfort for many businesses, it could drive many businesses to the wall.

It has been estimated that should inflation remain at its present elevated level, business rates for commercial properties in England as a result of next April's revaluation will rise in total by over �2 billion, a nice result for central and local government but not so good if it drives companies out of business.

Business rates revaluations

Business rates are re-set at each revaluation for a period of time known as the rating list. The current rating list, running from the April 1, 2017, until the March 31, 2023, was extended due to the pandemic in an attempt to ease the burden on businesses.

Business rates in England are a tax on the occupation of non-domestic property introduced in England and Wales in 1990. Since devolution and a Welsh Assembly in 1997, rate setting in Wales has been separated from England, and Scotland uses a different system as well.

Properties are assessed as a rating list with a rateable value, a valuation of their annual rental value on a fixed valuation date using assumptions fixed by statute. Rating lists are created and maintained by the Valuation Office Agency, a UK government executive agency of His Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The agency values properties for Council Tax and for non-domestic rates in England and Wales (in Scotland this function is performed by the Scottish Assessors). The work is undertaken on behalf of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in England, and the Welsh Government in Wales.

The business rating list is in fact a series of local rating lists, with each property being assessed for a rateable value based on rental values. Rating lists were prepared and maintained by the Valuation Office Agency, while billing and collection is the responsibility of local authorities.

The system features a central government set multiplier, often referred to as the Uniform Business Rate, by which the basic bill is calculated. The rates bill for individual properties and business, particularly of late due to Covid, is modified by various reliefs, including the newly introduced transitional relief, which was designed to smooth large changes in liability due to revaluations. The multiplier was calculated to ensure that, on average, bills rose by no more than the rate of inflation.

Rating lists can be altered either to reflect changes in properties, or when valuations are successfully appealed and new rating lists are normally created on revaluations every five years, though for future rating lists the government has shortened this period to three years. The aim of this is to keep the rates businesses pay more in-line with market rental values, as they change with the strength of the economy.

Through the Local Government Finance Act 2012, and regulations that followed, the government gave local authorities the power to keep up to half of business rate income and transfer half of it centrally, to central government. The central share is then distributed to councils in the form of revenue support grants.

The other half kept by local authorities are then subjected to tariff, levy, top-up and safety payments depending on the financial position of the council. According to the government the change gives financial incentives to councils to grow their local economies and increase their income from business rates. At the same time the new scheme has resulted in more risk and uncertainty.

Revaluation next April '� business concerns

With the next business rates revaluation due next April, Mortgage Introducer quotes RVA Surveyors saying that business owners and leaders are increasingly nervous as to what another rise could mean for their businesses.

RVA Surveyors say there's wide business community that is either unaware, sceptical, or simply too busy with the current economic climate, to think of challenging their business rates.

Anthony Hughes, managing director at RVA Surveyors, told Mortgage Introducer:

'Business rates has seen an upwards-only trend for years, and it is past time for the government to step up and sort out an increasingly outdated tax system. We need to see from Truss's government that help for businesses is paramount in the coming days; not only to help businesses stay afloat, but to keep employment levels steady as well.

'As bills continue to soar, and speculation as to when businesses will receive help from the government runs rampant, business owners and leaders must take steps to create savings where they can,'� Mr Hughes says.


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