In a change from our recent updates which have focussed on the impact of Covid-19 we are pleased to report on a successful conclusion to the long running case regarding the rateability of ATM sites and in particular whether they were separately rateable hereditaments.
In a unanimous judgement the Court ruled that ATM sites within existing properties – whether internal or external-facing – should not be subject to separate rating assessments and instead fall within the overall property’s liability.
The case – Cardtronics UK Ltd and others v Sykes and others (Valuation Officers) – was the culmination of a seven-year battle between the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and business ratepayers. Cardtronics were represented by Jerry Schurder, Gerald Eve’s Head of Business Rates.
The VOA claimed that all ATMs – whether external through-the-wall machines or internally sited within shop premises – should be liable for business rates, while Sainsbury’s, Tesco, the Co-op and Cardtronics argued that all cash machines should be included within the wider store assessment. The Court of Appeal had previously overturned the Upper Tribunal’s decision that externally facing ATMs should be rated separately.
This is a victory for common sense and we welcome the Court’s decision that ATMs shouldn’t attract separate rates bills. The judgement found that ATMs in the test cases heard by the Court were part of the retail offer of the stores they are situated in and therefore the floorspace on which the machines sit should be treated as part of the supermarket or convenience store at which they were located.
We especially welcome the Court’s rejection of the VOA’s attempt to separately rate internal machines, the consequences of which would have been dire. The VOA did acknowledge during the Supreme Court hearing that, if successful, its approach would have led to the likes of children’s rides, coffee and soft drink machines each receiving their own rates bills. There are a number of such facilities that have already been brought into assessment and we expect that they too will be removed from rating.
In our update earlier this month we referred to the discretionary fund set up to help small businesses previously outside the scope of the small business grant fund scheme. These include businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief, and bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates. Detailed guidance has now been provided to Local Authorities and is available here
In Northern Ireland an additional package of support measures was announced last week which includes:
In addition the Finance Minister announced an extension to the initial 3 month rate holiday provided to all businesses outside of those sectors receiving a full rates holiday (excluding public sector and utilities) for an additional month until the end of July.
We continue to lobby the Governments in England, Wales and Scotland to provide relief to those outside of the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors – the Government is clearly beginning to recognise that other sectors will face significant challenges in the months to come with the Treasury suggesting that in exceptional cases where a company has exhausted all options and its failure would disproportionally harm the economy they may consider support on a “last resort” basis. We would urge the respective administrations to consider extending the business rate holiday for 2020/21 to all sectors.
Our team is here to help you find your way through the months and years ahead, and is working non-stop to achieve the reductions in liabilities – through appeals, reliefs and policy changes – that are more vital now than ever.