A new Business Rates relief fund of £1.5 billion for businesses affected by COVID-19 outside the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors has been announced with targeted support delivered as appeals against rates bills on basis of material changes of circumstance due to the pandemic to be ruled out. The government hopes their relief fund will get cash to affected businesses in the most proportionate and equitable way.
The government set out plans to provide an extra, targeted support package for businesses who have been unable to benefit from the existing £16 billion business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses have not been paying any rates during the pandemic, as part of a 15 month-long relief which runs to the end of June this year.
Many of those ineligible for relief have been appealing for discounts on their rates bills, arguing the pandemic represented a ‘material change of circumstance’ (MCC).
The government has made it clear that market-wide economic changes to property values, such as from COVID-19, can only be properly considered at general rates revaluations, and will therefore be legislating to rule out COVID-19 related MCC appeals.
Instead the government will provide a £1.5 billion pot across the country that will be distributed according to which sectors have suffered most economically, rather than on the basis of falls in property values, ensuring the support is provided to businesses in England in the fastest and fairest way possible.
The governments rationale is that allowing business rates appeals on the basis of a ‘material change in circumstances’ could have led to significant amounts of taxpayer support going to businesses who have been able to operate normally throughout the pandemic and disproportionately benefitting particular regions like London.