Business rates are an unavoidable part of life for many businesses and our business rates consultancy team works with landlords and tenants to see if we can help you reduce your business costs. Checking your eligibility for business rates relief or assessing the accuracy of your business rates assessment is a sensible step in reducing your business overheads.
The process of checking and challenging your business rates assessment can be complex and requires specialist expertise. Our business rates team are here to help occupiers of commercial properties with all aspects of their business rates liability across the South West. We recognise business rates are a major outgoing for all occupiers of commercial property and our priority is to provide you with the best advice throughout the life of the rating list, to help you save money.
We have business rates specialists covering Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and the Bristol area who can advise on a range of business rates related matters, including checking and challenging rating assessments on occupied, empty or partially vacant properties as well as reviewing historic billing errors. Our business rates consultancy specialists have the expertise to guide you through all the reliefs and opportunities available to minimise your business rates liability.
Whether you are looking for advice on an existing business premises or one you are looking to acquire, we are here to help.
Would you like to appeal your business rates valuations?
Are you the owner or tenant of an empty building?
Are you redeveloping your property?
About Business Rates Consultancy
The Vickery Holman business rates consultancy team act for owners and occupiers of commercial properties, checking, challenging and when necessary, appealing business rates assessments. We advise on a range of property types and sectors including industrial, retail, offices, leisure, and trade related, such as public houses and caravan and holiday parks. Our team of experts work closely with our Valuation and Agency services, who help to provide a wider source of market evidence to achieve successful appeals. Our team have a proven record in successfully appealing rateable values, advising on reliefs and exemptions, and uncovering historic billing errors.
We offer proactive advice to minimise rates liability on empty and partially vacant properties. Our rates mitigation strategies have successfully saved our clients thousands, helping to reduce the financial burden at a time where there is no income. Further, our investment in specialist rating software helps us to examine your historical business rates bills and identify any overpayments.
Our business rates experts include valuation specialists and Honours members of the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation association. Our team are based across the region and would be pleased to talk to you about your commercial property matters.
Our consultants specialise in:
If you would like to discuss any of these services further, please do not hesitate to contact us using the details below.
Partly Occupied Property
Most business owners aren’t aware that billing authorities have discretionary power which enables them to give relief for partly occupied property under section 44A of the Local Governance Finance Act 1988. The basic rule applied in business rates is ‘occupation of part is liability of the whole’, which makes applying for relief under section 44A a confusing and rather grey area for many business owners to navigate. It also means that submitting a concise and clear application to your billing authority is important in order to try to obtain this relief. There are certain criteria that need to be met, including that the property must be partly occupied for a ‘short time only’ and an application must be submitted when the property is partly occupied, not retrospectively.
At Vickery Holman we have had numerous successes when applying for partly occupied property relief all over the south west. If you think you might be eligible for this relief we are always happy to have an initial discussion, and have the expertise and experience to apply on your behalf.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are business rates?
Business rates are a tax on the occupation of non-domestic property such as pubs, hotels, holiday rentals, warehouses, and shops, with the occupier being liable for the cost. This is usually the owner or occupier. If a property is empty, the liability lies with the owner or leaseholder. Business rates can be the biggest overhead for a business after rent and staff costs, so it is worth using a professional firm to review your business rates and check your rateable value is correct.
What is Rateable Value (RV)?
Rateable Value (RV) is the estimated amount a property would let for on the open market, on a full repairing and insuring lease basis, on a set valuation date. A property’s RV is calculated by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). The RV is used by the local billing authority to calculate the business rates liability. The last revaluation conducted by the VOA came into effect on 1 April 2017 based on values as of 1 April 2015. It is possible your RV has been calculated incorrectly. A professional surveyor with expertise in business rates will be able to assess the accuracy of your assessment and in some cases, secure significant savings
How much are my business rates?
Business rates are calculated by the property’s RV and Uniform Business Rates (UBR) multiplier. The UBR is set by the Government at the start of a Rating List and can only increase in line with the annual change in inflation between September and September each year. The formula is RV x UBR. Our specialist rating software can provide you with an estimate of your business rates liability over the duration of the Rating List. It is also possible to estimate your business rates or you can use the Government business rates calculator here www.gov.uk/calculate-your-business-rates.
Do I have to pay rates on an empty property?
Most property types are exempt from business rates for the first three months they are vacant. After this time, most businesses must pay full business rates, although there are some exceptions. Some properties can get extended empty property relief; for example, industrial and warehouse properties are exempt for a further three months, giving them six months before the owner or occupier must pay business rates.
The exceptions to the three-month initial period are:
- Industrial premises (for example warehouses) are exempt for a further three months
- Listed buildings (until they are re-occupied)
- Buildings with a rateable value under £2,900 (until they are re-occupied)
- Properties owned by charities if the property’s next use will be mostly for charitable purposes
- Community amateur sports clubs’ buildings if the next use will be mostly as a sports club
If you are the owner of a commercial property which is empty, or likely to become empty, please contact us to see how we can help you mitigate your liability for business rates.
Can I appeal the Rateable Value?
You can appeal your RV where there is evidence to show the RV is excessive or where other factors impact the rental value of a property. To do so, you must follow the Check, Challenge, Appeal (CCA) process. CCA is a three-stage online service, with incorrect factual details being dealt with at the check and the valuation at the challenge. You need to have completed the check stage first before you can submit a challenge. The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) deals with checks and challenges, whilst the independent Valuation Tribunal for England handles appeals.
Do I qualify for Small Business Rates Relief?
You can get Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) if your property’s RV is less than £15,000 and your business only uses one property. 100% Relief is available for properties with a RV of £12,000 or less and on a sliding scale between £12,001 and £14,999. If you use more than one property, you will qualify for SBRR on your main property, if the aggregate of the RVs is less than £20,000 and none of your other properties have a RV above £2,899.
What Covid-19 business rates support is available?
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Government announced a package of support comprising of one-off grant payments and reliefs for certain sectors as follows:
- The Government has expanded the previous retail relief discount so all retail, hospitality, leisure, and nursery businesses will receive 100% business rates relief in 2020/21. This is irrespective of the property’s rateable value.
- If you do not qualify for the small business grant, retail, leisure, and hospitality businesses are eligible for grant funding of £10,000 for properties with a RV up to and including £15,000. A cash grant of £25,000 is available for properties with a RV over £15,000 and below £51,000.
- There is currently some discussion about whether the business rates support will be extended but there have been no announcements about this.
- The Government announced a new range of financial measures to assist businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in January 2021. Eligible businesses with a RV of £15,000 or under will receive £4,000. There will be £6,000 for businesses with a RV between £15,000 and £51,000, and £9,000 for businesses with a RV of over £51,000.
Do I need to pay business rates if I work from home?
You do not normally need to pay business rates if you work from home, assuming you are only using a small part of your home as an office, for example, or if you sell goods by post. If your property is part domestic and part commercial, for example if you live above your shop, you may need to pay both business rates and council tax. If you employ people at your home or if you sell goods or services to people who visit your property, you may be liable for business rates. Similarly, if you have converted part of your home to a workspace – a gym or salon, for example – you may be liable for business rates.
Can you check my historic business rates payments?
Using specialist rating software, we can examine your historical business rates payments dating back to 1990 to identify any overpayments. Where we uncover historic billing errors, we recover those sums on your behalf and ensure a rebate is issued accordingly.
“I would highly recommend Jordan from Vickery Holman. Throughout working with them, she has been fantastic at keeping us in the loop and clearly and quickly answering any and all questions I had!”
Jeni Henthorn – Headforwards
Industrial Unit, Devon
We recently saved our Client, the occupier of a large industrial unit in Devon, £100,000 in business rates.
Our client asked us to undertake a speculative review of the rateable values of a portfolio of properties, including an industrial unit with a rateable value of £91,000.
Our analysis of the contractors basis valuation revealed the Valuation Office Agency had included inaccurate information within the valuation. Two key errors were highlighted: six waste recycling bays were included in the valuation, whilst in truth there were only five bays at the site and each bay measured approximately 12 metres in length, rather than the 37 metres recorded by the Valuation Office Agency.
We submitted a detailed check with supporting evidence to the Valuation Office Agency to request the facts of the valuation were updated, and we negotiated on the Client’s behalf.
The outcome was the amendment of the contractors basis valuation and therefore the reduction of the rateable value for the entirety of the 2023 Rating List. The error was also rectified in the 2017 Rating List, resulting in significant backdated savings for our Client totalling approximately £100,000.
Sports Ground, Devon
We recently saved our Client, the occupier of a sports ground in Devon, £50,000 in business rates.
Our client asked us to undertake a speculative review of the rateable value of the property.
Our analysis of the valuation revealed the Valuation Office Agency had included inaccurate capacity figures and average gate numbers and had adopted an excessive fair maintainable turnover figure.
We submitted a detailed check with supporting evidence to the Valuation Office Agency to request the facts of the valuation were updated, and we negotiated on the Client’s behalf.
The outcome was the amendment of the valuation and therefore the reduction of the rateable value for the entirety of the 2017 Rating List, resulting in significant backdated savings for our Client totalling approximately £50,000. The errors should also be rectified in the 2023 Rating List which will result in further savings into the future.
Liskeard – property in uneconomical disrepair
Some properties can fall into disrepair because it is not economically viable to undertake remedial works. This can be where a large, outdated property becomes obsolete due to change in demand which results in long periods of vacancy while development or demolition options are considered. Often, the VOA will adopt the assumption of reasonable repair which means business rates are still payable on these properties.
A large industrial unit in Liskeard had been vacant since 2007 due to substantial disrepair, which was not economically viable to remedy, and the property continued to incur rates liability despite being incapable of occupation. We were of the opinion our client should not be paying business rates whilst unable to occupy the property.
We submitted a ‘Check’ document which provided evidence of the extent of the disrepair at the property and the cost of works that would be required to put the property back into a reasonable state of ‘repair’ in order to be capable of beneficial occupation. This highlighted that the costs of works were uneconomic in relation to the rental value that would be realised were the property to be put into repair, with the payback period not reflecting a sufficient return on investment, thus rendering it economically unviable.
The outcome was the successful removal of the property from the Rating List over the life of the 2017 List, resulting in a business rates rebate and an overall saving of circa £18,500 for our client.
We recently saved our Client, the occupier of a workshop in London, £25,000 in business rates during a programme of reconfiguration.
If your property is uninhabitable due to reconfiguration works, it may be possible to reduce your Rateable Value or to have the property temporarily removed from the Rating List altogether. We have had recent success in removing a client’s property from the 2017 Rating List, effectively reducing their business rates liability to £0 during a programme of reconfiguration works.
A workshop was undergoing significant reconfiguration and our Client, the owner-occupier, continued to be liable for business rates despite being unable to occupy the building during the works.
We submitted a detailed check with extensive supporting evidence to the Valuation Office Agency and negotiated on the Client’s behalf.
The outcome was the successful removal of the property from the 2017 Rating List whilst the works were being carried out. This resulted in a business rates rebate and an overall saving of £23,000.
Dog Training Barn
We recently saved our Client, the occupier of a dog training barn, £7,750 in business rates per annum.
Our client asked us to ‘Challenge’ the description of the property with the Valuation Office Agency.
The property, a former agricultural building, is now being used as a dog training barn. When the client approached us, the property was categorised as a ‘store and premises’ by the VOA. We requested that the valuation scheme be changed to ‘dog training school and premises’ as the original scheme attracted too-high a base rate, resulting in an excessive rateable value.
We submitted a detailed ‘Challenge’ with supporting evidence to the VOA to request the adoption of a more appropriate valuation scheme, reflective of the property’s actual use based on the Rating principle of rebus sic stantibus.
The VOA adopted the valuation scheme we requested, resulting in a saving of £7,750 per annum for our client. Not only did this result in an excellent saving, but it also brought the ratable value below the threshold for our client to qualify for small business rates relief.
Penzance – property undergoing redevelopment works
During redevelopment or refurbishment works, it may be impossible to occupy your property. We have recently successfully removed our client’s property from the 2017 Rating List, reducing their liability to £0 and ensuring they were not paying rates unnecessarily.
A prominent office building in Penzance was being redeveloped internally to suit the needs of our client. The extent of the works rendered the property incapable of beneficial occupation due to a lack of services, substantial reconfiguration of internal walls and an absence of floorboarding across multiple parts of the property. The commencement of works had also been delayed due to restrictions imposed as a result of Covid, limitations in sourcing materials and a reduced workforce able to carry out the works. We were of the opinion our client should not be paying business rates whilst unable to occupy the property.
Initially we submitted a ‘Check’ document which was not accepted by the VOA. We followed this with a ‘Challenge’ document, which was submitted via the Government Gateway following the Check, Challenge, Appeal process, setting out extensive evidence to demonstrate that the property should be removed during the period of works which rendered the property incapable of beneficial occupation.
The outcome was the successful removal of the property from the Rating List over this period from the commencement of works, resulting in a business rates rebate and an overall saving of circa £23,500 for our client.
We recently saved our Client, the occupier of a large office building, £80,000 in business rates during a programme of refurbishment.
If your property is uninhabitable due to redevelopment works, it may be possible to reduce your RV or have it removed from the Rating List altogether. We have had recent success in removing a client’s property from the 2017 Rating List, effectively reducing their business rates liability to £0 during a programme of redevelopment works.
An office building was undergoing significant refurbishment and our Client, the owner-occupier, continued to be liable for business rates despite being unable to occupy the building during the works.
We submitted a detailed check with extensive supporting evidence to the VOA and negotiated on the Client’s behalf.
The outcome was the successful removal of the property from the 2017 Rating List whilst the works were being carried out. This resulted in a business rates rebate and an overall saving of £80,000.
Lockyer Street, Plymouth
Vickery Holman have recently helped a Plymouth office client save over £30,000 in business rates. This client was one of many period office occupiers effected by the ‘Woolway v Mazars Case’, which concerned the rating of different floors in a large multi-occupied building. In 2015 and of the back of this case, the VOA took the view that individual offices in multi-occupied buildings should be assessed separately, meaning many occupiers lost their small business rates relief entitlement, worth up to £5,800 per year in many cases.
In 2018 and in response to a reversal of the decision in ‘Woolway v Mazars’, the VOA made the decision to allow offices which shared a common wall, ceiling or floor to be merged as one assessment, effective from April 2017. This process has 2 positive effects on occupiers:
- By having one assessment with a Rateable Value of under £15,000, the occupiers is often re-eligible for small business rates relief, meaning no business rates to pay in many cases.
- The larger an office is, the lower rate per square metre is applied to the assessment. This can reduce the Rateable Value of an assessment substantially.
The VOA have since on request remerged thousands of office premises. However, they do not carry out this task automatically. It is the occupier who must register an application. We have a dedicated business rates team who are experienced in assessing potential merging opportunities and who are happy to discuss how we can help you in this area, or with any other business rates enquiry.
The Team for Business Rates Consultancy
Case studies for Business Rates Consultancy
Vickery Holman have successfully agreed a period of 3 months Empty Property Rates Relief for a large vacant retail unit in Penzance, resulting in a total of £7,300 in business rates savings over 3 months! Acting on behalf of a local investor, the prominent three storey retail unit in Penzance had recently been acquired as […]
Vickery Holman are delighted to announce the successful negotiation of an empty office building undergoing refurbishment from £162,000 Rateable Value (RV) to £0 RV, resulting in a total of £35,000 in business rates savings over the 5 month programme of works. Acting on behalf of PKF Francis Clark: Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, Vickery Holman […]
Vickery Holman are delighted to announce the successful re-negotiation of a car showroom business rates assessment from £197,000 Rateable Value (RV) to £75,000 RV, a total of £188,500 in business rates savings! Acting on behalf of a well-known cornish car dealer, Vickery Holman have successfully negotiated a significant business rates reduction on their premises in […]
We have recently acted on behalf of clients throughout the region who’s premises have been affected by the “Mazars and Woolway” case. Here, it was ruled that rooms or floors of a building in multiple occupation must be assessed separately if there are shared areas, such as corridors. The new ruling had most impact on […]
Acting on behalf of the owner occupier in respect of a Business Rates appeal, Vickery Holman are pleased to confirm a £10,000 saving for our Client, over the 2017 rating list. The detached 1970’s built industrial unit is located on a popular and well known industrial estate on the outskirts of the town centre of […]
Some interesting updates in our business rates newsletter Click here for more information – Business Rates Newsletter Spring 2019
What changes to business rates are pending? Is there a justified call for changes to business rates? We have seen that retailers are benefiting from a rates reduction for the next 2 years. Alongside this, the Government have been asked to urgently assess business rates and in particular look at creating either; a sales tax, […]
Mazars Ruling refers to the case ‘Woolway v Mazar’ when in 2016 a Supreme Court case changed the way that the Valuation Office Agency assessed the rateable value of premises where there is more than one occupier. Our team of business rates consultants work with clients to check and challenge business rates valuations and bills, […]
Under the current definition of rateable value there is an assumption property will be ‘in a state of reasonable repair’. The overall effect in most cases is that repair will not be a significant consideration in rating valuation; this is not necessarily the case for property undergoing construction works. In 2015 the Supreme Court found […]
It’s not just offices, retail and industrial units we help with business rates checks and challenges – we recently helped a client save £3000 as they went through a change of use from a GP surgery to a funeral parlour. Business Rates Challenge Overview We were acting on behalf of a local Client who had […]