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CORONAVIRUS MEASURES - 18/03

Yesterday evening, the Chancellor announced an enhanced package of measures to support business through the coronavirus pandemic. The business rates measures are focused on the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, but we are also lobbying for reductions for firms in other sectors.

The Chancellor’s measures relate specifically to business rates in England but he is making appropriate funding available to the devolved administrations and the expectation is that they will follow suit. We will keep you advised.

 

Retail, leisure and hospitality

The headline announcement was the expansion of the one-year rates holiday to all businesses in these sectors, regardless of size or rateable value. The Chancellor committed to do “whatever it takes” and that no company in these sectors would pay business rates in 2020/21. We are expecting Government guidance later today on the specific uses that fall into these generic descriptions.

In our view the Chancellor’s position could not be clearer, and while bills for next year have already been issued, we are recommending that no business in these sectors makes any payments for such properties. Payments should still be made for office and storage premises and the like. This is the approach that our rates payment team will be adopting.

There have been question marks over the application of European State Aid rules, which Government advised last week would apply to the 100% relief for RVs below £51,000. We understand that the Government has subsequently applied to the EU to confirm that State Aid limits will not apply, and we expect the Chancellor to stand by his promise that this discount will apply in full to all firms in the sectors.

Similarly, there are potential issues in the relief being made available to properties that are shut as a consequence of coronavirus. We shall provide client-specific guidance once Government advice has been received as to how to ensure that no rates become payable in these circumstances.

We are urgently liaising with Government officials to confirm the application of the new measures, and will update you once there is more clarity. Your regular Gerald Eve contact will help you understand how the measures impact on your liabilities.

 

Other sectors

With the exception of the airline and airport sectors, where specific assistance is expected to be announced soon, none of the Chancellor’s business rates announcements targeted the office, logistics and manufacturing sectors.

There are potential opportunities for reducing liabilities through empty rate relief – particularly for companies that are closing offices and instructing staff to work from home – and discretionary relief for properties that are becoming partially vacant as staff self-isolate or there is a drop in production and storage requirements.

It is important these possibilities are explored as early as possible; your regular Gerald Eve contact will be in touch to discuss mitigation of your rates liabilities. We are continuing to lobby for the expansion of new measures to properties from other sectors.

These are unusual times, but rest assured we are working to ensure you receive the discounts promised and, where there are no specific new measures, that your liabilities are mitigated as much as possible.

 

Please contact the Gerald Eve team if you have any questions.

Key Contacts

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Simon Green

Partner

Alan Hampton

Partner

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