Business rates: A brief guide to available reliefs

Business rates are a subject of critical importance to every small business but where should you go for the best advice and information? Ian B Sloan FRICS, of Bankier Sloan chartered surveyors, explains.

Most businesses across the county will tell you that at some point in the last few years they have received a cold-call from a firm of consultants offering to reduce their Business Rates bill; a highly attractive offer especially when costs are rising and profit margins are being squeezed      

Most ask if they can send a consultant round (who just happens to be in your area next week !) with no commitment on your behalf.

"Be warned" is the advice which continues to be given by Ian Sloan FRICS of Chartered Surveyors Bankier Sloan who, although based just over the border at Shenington in North Oxfordshire, has helped many Warwickshire based companies.   

Bankier Sloan have provided free advice to businesses across the country on Rates Relief for many years.  The major search engines will reveal this is no  recent fad as far as Bankier Sloan are concerned as they produced their first national report on Small Business Rates Relief in September 2012; a report which has been updated many times since. 

Many councils now publish free Rates Relief Tables produced to promote relief schemes in an attempt to give local businesses definitive guidance at no cost. This enables them to avoid the need to use the assistance of the many consultants, most based in the north-west, who offer in many cases  potential reductions that are impossible to obtain, according to Ian Sloan.

The easiest way to receive free assistance is to ask your Billing Authority , usually your local council, for guidance.   Almost without exception the best Relief Schemes are those set by Central Government , but all are  administered by local councils. This allows councils to take the credit for  such schemes. 

Because all such schemes are classed as "discretionary," all need local councils' approval, and therefore can be minuted and the record will show that individual councils have set/passed/approved the scheme - always good PR  for any local council!

For most local enterprise the most important relief is Small Business Rates Relief which will give 100 % to any business operating from a single property  which has a rateable Value of £12,000 or less. The scheme then gives tapered relief for those with Rateable Values up to £15,000 .     

If you are not already receiving this relief  it is still possible to backdate your claim to April 2012. You do not need to be employing anyone in the  premises to make the claim; if the unit which may simply be a store/lock-up has a rateable value, it  becomes eligible under the scheme. Full details of the scheme can be found on this table: Small Business Rates Relief 2019/20

April 1st 2019 saw the government introduce another major relief called Retail Rates Relief which has given 33.3% discount to retailers with Rateable Values under £51,000. This scheme has the added advantage that if a business has more than one property below the £51,000 they can claim on each property. The scheme will operate for two year commencing 1st April 2019.

The advice being given is don't sign any contract with any firm without seeking a second opinion. All Relief is given out free by your local council; if you're not sure that the guidance given on your council's website is correct, look on a neighbouring council's site - and keep repeating that exercise until you are totally happy that you understand the rules. Or, of course, you can always make contact with our team here at Warwickshire County Council.

Ian Sloan said: "At Bankier Sloan we know  how most reliefs work. We know the rules and helping small business is something we have enjoyed doing for many years and hopefully we will receive other professional  instructions relating to Industrial and commercial properties, such as advising on Lease renewals, Rent Reviews and the letting and sale of industrial premises, which has been the mainstay of the business since it's establishment in November 1984."

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