RATING SPECIALISTS OFFER GUIDANCE TO GARDEN CENTRES ON REDUCING LIABILITIES POST COVID-19

With the Government having announced a postponement to the planned 2021 Revaluation yesterday, Rating specialists working with Malcolm Scott Consultants have provided valuable guidance for garden centres regarding their Rateable Values.

As the country moves closer to an easing of the Covid-19 lockdown, garden centres will be gearing up to re-open and maximise trading opportunities, taking the necessary steps to maintain social distancing and therefore restricting how garden centres are able to operate.

One basic premise of Rating is that occupation of part of a property equals occupation of whole, meaning that even if the ratepayer is utilising only part of a property, they will remain liable for the rates charge based on the rateable value applicable to the entire property. This will clearly have financial implications where social distancing and other Covid-related restrictions prevent a ratepayer from fully utilising their property.

Nigel Fletcher, a Rating specialist based at MSC’s sister company Harris Lamb, has outlined some of the options available to centre owners to try and reduce ongoing rates liabilities.

Nigel Fletcher

“Billing Authorities have discretionary powers with which they can provide limited pro-rata apportionment of rates charges to reflect part occupation of a property. Such rates relief will only be granted at the discretion of each billing authority, there being no guarantee that it would be given, and no right of appeal should it be refused. However, it is worthy of further investigation on a case-by-case basis and applications submitted if deemed appropriate – after all, one can but ask!

“With inevitable falls in trading levels due to the lockdown, many garden centres may have to undergo a restructuring of their business to remain profitable, and remove surplus buildings or outside sales areas. In such cases, the current rating Check, Challenge, Appeal processoffers the ratepayer the opportunity to seek a reduction in rateable value to reflect the reduction in accommodation occupied.

“If an existing business is restructured and divided into separately operating business entities, it may be possible to seek a split in any existing single rateable value into two or more separate assessments. This may then make available certain rates relief such as Small Business Relief,” he added.

The business has welcomed the Revaluation postponement as it enables companies to assess the financial impact Covid-19 has had on their businesses, and is reminding all operators to have their current rateable Values assessed while the Valuation Office has the resource to process appeals.

For further information, contact Chris Primett at MSC on chrisp@malcolmscottcons.co.uk