Policy Discretionary Rate Relief for Partly Occupied Premises policy

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4. Specific policy areas

4.1 Awarding S44A Partly Occupied Discretionary Rate Relief

4.1.1 When considering an application for discretionary rate relief the following factors will be taken into account:

  • The circumstances leading to the partial occupation
  •  What is the intention of the business in relation to the unoccupied parts
  • Evidence that the unoccupied part will be empty for a short term only.

4.1.2 We will not normally give relief under this provision where:

4.1.2 We will not normally give relief under this provision where:

  • Part occupation is likely to exceed a short time
  • Part occupation is seasonal
  • It appears there is no effort being taken to let, sell, re-occupy or totally vacate
  • It is for a retrospective period

4.1.3 Any relief awarded will end when either:

  • There is a change in the partial occupation (more or less); or
  • It is the end of the financial year (though we can use our discretion to request a further certificate if the circumstances permit it); or
  • There is a change in the rateable value (through revaluation or an appeal).

4.1.4 Ratepayers are required to notify us of any change in circumstances that may affect entitlement to this relief.

4.2 Administering the scheme

4.2.1 Relief must be applied for in writing (including email) and will need to include the following:

  • The period for the relief
  • The reasons for why relief should be given and the circumstances leading to the partial occupation (see 4.1.1)
  • A plan of the rated premises which clearly identifies the occupied and the unoccupied areas.
  • Its declaration as to the amount of de minimis aid it or any other organisation in its group under the "notified scheme" or "block exemption scheme" as prescribed by the EU in the last three years

4.2.2 The premises will need to be inspected in order to verify the information that has been provided

4.2.3 The maximum period will normally only be granted for up to 6 months.

This mirrors the statutory exemption for empty premises where you normally get either three or six months depending on the description of the property. Beyond that in the majority of cases there would be no financial benefit to the customer exceeding the exemption period as full rates are payable whether it’s occupied or not.

4.2.4 Delegated authority is given to the Revenues & Benefits Manager for deciding applications for this discretionary rate relief.

4.2.5 We will aim to make a decision within 14 days of receiving all the information required.

4.2.6 Unsuccessful applicants will be notified in writing together with the reason for the decision.

4.3 Right of appeal

4.3.1 There is no statutory right of appeal against a decision made us regarding discretionary rate relief. However, we recognise that ratepayers should be entitled to have a decision reviewed if they are dissatisfied with the outcome.

4.3.2 A review of a decision will be dealt with by the Head of Finance. There is no right of appeal.

4.3.3 A request for review must be made within one calendar month of the date of the decision letter.

4.3.4 This review process does not affect a ratepayer’s legal right to seek leave to challenge a decision by way of Judicial Review.

4.4 Legal background

4.4.1 Section 44a of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 allows billing authorities to grant rate relief on a property that is partly unoccupied , so long as the situation exists for a short time only.

4.4.2 The decision to exercise our discretion must be taken before a certificate is requested from the Valuation Office Agency, because the ‘occupied value’ once certified becomes the Section 42 rateable value for the purpose of the Act.

4.4.3 The discretion given to billing authorities only extends to deciding whether or not to allow relief and what is a short period in relation to the premises or ratepayer.

4.4.4 Discretion does not extend to selecting categories of property or ratepayer where relief will be favoured.

4.5 State aid

4.5.1 There are European Union (EU) regulations that restrict the award of state aid under certain circumstances. Relief from taxes, including non-domestic rates, can constitute state aid. State aid rules aim to ensure fair competition and a single common market. Discretionary rate relief must at all times fall within the criteria specified by the relevant Articles of "Functioning of the EU" for it to be treated as "de minimis aid".

4.5.2 The total de minimis aid which can be given to a single recipient is currently €200,000 over three fiscal years. This ceiling takes into account all public assistance given to the applicant or any linked organisation (such as another group company) and includes the monetary amount of any aid given in respect of operational locations outside East Devon.

4.5.3 Discretionary rate relief will not qualify as de minimis aid if given on condition that use of domestic materials is to be preferred over imported materials, or if given to an organisation defined by the EU as "an undertaking in difficulty" (which EU defines as a company in respect of which the absence of "outside intervention by public authorities will almost certainly condemn it to go out of business in the short or medium term").

4.5.4 We must ensure that we are complying with State Aid rules when awarding discretionary rate relief.

4.6 Funding

4.6.1 From 1 April 2013 the cost to East Devon District Council of funding discretionary rate relief is 40 per cent as it forms part of the business rate retention scheme.