If you run or help lead one of Britain’s five million or more businesses, you’ll know just how much of a nightmare business rates can sometimes be. With so many other outgoings to meet, ranging from water bills to staff salary payments, the rates levied and collected by a local authority like Manchester can seem like just another headache to contend with.
However, it’s not all bad news. These important fees are there to help ensure that the local services you rely on work well, and they are essential for a functioning modern economy. They’re also not too difficult to get your head around once you’ve done your research and worked them out, either – so it’s well worth investing the time in finding out what they are and how they work. Here, then, are some of the most important points about commercial property rates for you to get to grips with.
Who pays them?
In short, most people who operate commercial, profit-making premises will be required to pay business rates. Obvious examples of such environments include office buildings, high street shops, out of town retail parks, public houses and many more. Business rates are administrated by the local council, and it’s normal for details of your rates to be sent through the post around March – at the same time as the domestic equivalent, council tax, is also levied.
It’s not all bad news because it’s possible in some circumstances to secure “rate relief”: this, in practice, is simply money off your business rates bill. The rules differ in each of the UK’s constituent counties, so it’s worth checking out what’s on offer in your area. In England, for example, some designated rural areas grant business rate exemptions to premises which house the only shop in a village if they have a rateable value of below £8,500.
If you’re struggling to pay your business rates, it’s worth speaking to your local council in the first instance and explaining your circumstances. While there are no guarantees of any particular outcome, they may be able to point you in the direction of any rate relief assistance you’re eligible for or instead offer you a payment plan. If you don’t try, you won’t know!
The revaluation process
It is possible in some circumstances to receive a rate revaluation. This is carried out by an organisation known as the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), and in most circumstances they carry this out on a five-yearly basis. In most circumstances, you’ll be required to submit some documentation about your property and its position in the market when the VOA re-assessment rolls around, so you should be prepared to do this. Working with RVA Surveyors can help smooth out this process, as the team has a wealth of experience when it comes to revaluations. It’s also worth noting that they’re an independent firm with no institutional connections to the VOA.
In today’s diverse economy, work goes on in all sorts of property types. Gone are the days when only factories and offices played host to paid work: now, people work in spaces ranging from their garden sheds to co-working centres. While this is great in terms of flexibility, it does make it a little more complex when it comes to working out whether or not you’re covered by rules regarding business rates.
If you work from home, for example, you won’t normally pay business rates if just a small chunk of the overall property is used for your work – although some exceptions exist. Special rules also exist regarding stables: if you operate a riding school business or similar, you’ll most likely need to pay unless the horses are required for agricultural use. You are also likely be free from the burden of business rates if you have a building that has been empty for under three months, while you might also get a business rate exemption on any agricultural buildings you own (depending on your exact circumstances).
On the face of it, business rates are the sort of scary fees that can seem like make or break for a firm. After all, depending on what sort of commercial property you operate and where you’re based, your business rates can actually be quite high. But as with any other cost of doing business, it’s possible to take steps to get this charge under control – and the key to that lies in seeking out information. Whether it’s sourcing a list of business types which are eligible for relief or looking into the revaluation process, there’s a lot you can learn about business rates to make the process of paying them more manageable.