Commercial Property Tax in the UK: Business Rates and Rating appeals

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Abstract

The Business Rate Retention Scheme (BRRS) was introduced in England 1st April 2013 with the intention being to provide local authorities with an incentive to grow their economy; at the same time, it transferred financial liability for backdated appeals to LAs. Under the original scheme, business rates revenue, mandatory relief and liability for successful appeals is spilt 50/50 between central Government and local government which both share the rewards of growth and bear the risk of losses. There has been little research to date into the impact of appeals liability on local authority business rates revenue under BRRS, this deficiency compounded by the Government’s 2014 commitment to undertake a fiscally neutral review of the business rates system (due 2017) and the Chancellor’s 2015 Conservative Party Conference announcement that, from 2020, Local Authorities in England would retain 100% of their Business Rates as the block grant is abolished. The research adopts a microanalysis approach into researching Local Government Finance, conducting a case study of Leeds, to investigate the impact of appeals liability and reveal disparities in impact, through detailed examination of multiple perspectives in one of the largest cities in the UK. The case study reveals that Leeds, despite having a buoyant commercial economy driven by retail and service sector growth, has been detrimentally impacted by BRRS as backdated appeals have outweighed uplift in business rates income. The study concludes that changes to the business rates system, such as BRRS, have been introduced prematurely and with little planning and forethought. Local authorities’ income is more volatile as a consequence of both the rates retention and appeals liability aspects of BRRS; such volatility impairs the ability of local authorities to invest in growth at the same time as providing front line services over the medium term – precisely the opposite of what BRRS was intended to do. It also incentivises the construction of new floorspace, which generates risks overbuilding and exacerbating oversupply in some markets. Fundamentally BRRS is not a ‘one size fits all’ model – it results in winners and losers – which will be exacerbated if local authorities get to keep 100% of their business rates from 2020.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)602-619
JournalJournal of Property Investment & Finance
Volume34
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2016

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