10 Jan 19 by Nicola Murrish

Following the government’s promise in the Autumn 2017 Budget, legislation is now in place to reverse the well publicised ‘staircase tax.’

Following a Supreme Court ruling in 2015, which led to a change in the way the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) assessed multi-occupied office buildings, many office occupiers saw their rating assessments split into more than one assessment resulting in higher rates liabilities as their value per square metre increased and in some cases the loss of their entitlement to small business rates relief.

After the 2015 court case, properties that were separated by common facilities or other occupiers were assessed separately of each other. An example of where this situation could have occurred is when a tenant was occupying the first and third floors with a different tenant occupying the floor between them, or owner occupiers who occupied part of their building and let surplus space to tenants, also found themselves with an increased rates bill.

As of 1st November 2018, The Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Act 2018 came into force, enabling ratepayers to request that their rating assessments from 1st April 2017 are remerged to include all floors or sections of a building in the same occupation. From the 17th December, the legislation is in place for the backdating of these amendments to 1st April 2015. The legislation won’t entirely return the rates position to what it was before, but will enable assessments which are contiguous/ adjoining one another to be merged.

In many cases, the merger of such premises will result in a reduction of business rates, either by reducing the amount per square metre that is applied to the property, or by reinstating previously lost Small Business Rate Relief.

Vickery Holman have rating surveyors in each of their South West Offices in Truro, Plymouth, Exeter and Bristol who can guide you through the process of limiting you rates liability as much as the new legislation allows and ensure you obtain the reliefs you are entitled to.

Nicola Murrish ‘Head of Rating’ at Vickery Holman comments that “this legislation has been long awaited since the VOA started implementing these unforeseen changes to RV’s back in 2016 and 2017. There is a deadline for the end of 2019 to submit these requests, so if you think this affects you, please get in contact with us.”