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Cambridge City Council

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Business rate relief and exemptions

If you pay business rates, you might be eligible for rate relief.

Recent government announcements

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by Covid-19 (coronavirus).

If your business received the retail discount in the 2019/20 tax year, we will rebill you as soon as possible.

Relief for small businesses

To qualify for a reduced business rate, your business must occupy either:

  • a single property with a rateable value of less than £51,000
  • a main property with additional properties, where the additional properties have a rateable value of less than £2,900 each, and the total rateable value of all properties together is less than £20,000

If your business meets either of these criteria, your business rates bill will be calculated using a lower uniform business rate (UBR) multiplier.


Additional relief

In addition to having your bill calculated using the lower multiplier, a further reduction is available if the rateable value of the single or main property is less than £15,000.

A percentage rate reduction is available on a sliding scale for properties with a rateable value between £12,000 and £14,999, and a straight reduction of 100% is available for properties with a rateable value below £12,000.

Unless your circumstances change, your rates relief will last until the next revaluation of your property in 2021.

Supporting Small Businesses relief

In the 2017 Spring Budget, the Chancellor announced a new relief scheme would be made available to those ratepayers facing large increases as a result of the loss of small business rate relief or rural rate relief.

The transitional relief scheme does not alter in light of changes in relief. As such, ratepayers losing some or all of their small business rate relief or rural rate relief may have large increases in their April 2017 bills.

Since 2016/17 ratepayers have been protected from larger increases in their rate bills who, after revaluation, find they have lost some or all of their small business or rural rate relief and have a large increase on their bill. To support these ratepayers, the supporting small businesses relief will ensure that the increase per year is limited to the greater of:

  • a cash value of £600 per year (£50 per month), or
  • the matching cap on increases for small properties in the transitional relief scheme.

We have already applied this relief to those that meet the criteria, in line with government guidelines. If you feel that you qualify for this relief but it is not showing on your bill, please email us.

Additional support for small businesses

Government has announced cash grants for businesses in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief or who occupied property with a rateable value below £51,000.

We are awaiting further clarification about this grant and information about how it will be delivered and paid to small businesses.

In the meantime businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief will continue to receive relief in the normal way and this will be shown on your bill.

Ratepayers who are already in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief or Retail Rate Relief do not need to contact us – we will increase relief automatically as soon as possible.

If you do not currently receive these reliefs and believe you meet the qualifying criteria, please email us.

Retail Relief

Shops, restaurants, cafes and drinking establishments with a rateable value of less than £51,000 are entitled to one third off their business rates in 2019/20.

This Retail Relief was applied in 2019/20 and 2020/21, after any other relief the business is eligible for has been applied.

All awards of relief must comply with EU law on state aid. You must declare any other De Minimis aid that you have received, including Retail Relief for any premises.

Increase in Retail Relief

Government has announced that Retail Rate Relief awarded to eligible business will increase from 50% to 100% for 2020/21 and will extend this to include the leisure and hospitality sector under new criteria.

Business rate bills were produced prior to this announcement, therefore if your business is eligible for Retail Rate Relief this will be shown on your bill at the rate of 50%.

Steps are being taken to implement the increase in Retail Relief to 100% and to award relief to further business who will now qualify for this relief. Revised bills will be issued as soon as possible.

Direct Debit payers – we are taking action so that we will not collect direct debits from businesses that are eligible for 100% relief in 2020/21.

If you pay by other methods, including standing orders, and you will receive 100% relief, do not pay the instalment due on 1 April or cancel your standing order. Anyone who overpays will be refunded as soon as possible.

Businesses are not required to make any further claim for the increased relief and do not need to contact us – we will apply the additional relief automatically and send revised bills as soon as possible.

Relief for empty and partly-occupied properties

Empty properties

If a property is empty and unused, you do not have to pay business rates for the first three months from the date the property was first unoccupied. This is extended to six months for certain industrial properties.

After this period, rates are payable at the standard rate, as if the building was occupied.

Some exemptions do apply - such as listed buildings, small properties with rateable values of less than £2,900, or where occupation has been restricted by law.

Owners of these properties do not have to pay business rates for as long as the property remains empty.

Partly-occupied properties

If a property is partly-occupied for a short period of time, we have the discretion to give business rate relief on the part of the property that is unoccupied.

For example, this could apply if your business is moving into or out of a property in stages.

If discretionary relief is granted, the rateable value will be recalculated, and, if applicable, empty-property rates will be payable on the unoccupied part and full rates will be payable on the occupied part of the property.

Apply for your empty or partly-occupied property

Contact us with the following information:

  • the address of the property
  • the name of the current owner or leaseholder
  • the date it was or will be empty or partly-occupied

Applications for partly-occupied properties also need:

  • a plan of the property which identifies the unoccupied area
  • reasons for the application

Relief for charity and amateur sports clubs

Charity and registered amateur sports clubs can apply for charitable relief, which can reduce the bill by 80 per cent. This is called mandatory rate relief.

We have discretion to remit all or part of the remaining 20 per cent – this is called discretionary rate relief.

Relief for public houses

In the 2020 budget, the chancellor announced a £5,000 business rate discount for public houses with a rateable value of up to £100,000. The relief is for one year from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.

To be eligible for this relief the pub should:

  • be open to the general public
  • allow free entry other than when occasional entertainment is provided
  • allow drinking without requiring food to be consumed
  • permit drinks to be purchased at a bar

This relief does not apply to restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, hotels, snack bars, guesthouses, boarding houses, sporting venues, music venues, festival sites, theatres, museums, exhibition halls, cinemas, concert halls or casinos.

Please contact us if you feel you meet the criteria and have not yet received this relief.

Relief for local newspapers

The government is providing funding to local councils so that they can provide a discount worth up to £1,500 a year for two years from 1 April 2017, to office space occupied by local newspapers.

This is up to a maximum of one discount per local newspaper title and per hereditament, and up to state aid limits.

The relief will be delivered through local authority discretionary discount powers (under section 47(3) of the Local Government Finance Act 1988).

The eligibility criteria for this relief are set out in the government's guidance note: The case for business rates relief for local newspapers.

Revaluation relief

In the 2017 Spring Budget, the chancellor announced that the government would establish a £300m discretionary fund over four years from 2017/18 to support those businesses that face the steepest increases in their business rates bills as a result of the revaluation.

The total amount of funding to be allocated to the city council is £755,000 over four years, in the following proportions:

  • 2017/18: £440,000
  • 2018/19: £214,000
  • 2019/20: £88,000
  • 2020/21: £13,000

Each local authority was required to devise its own local scheme to help local ratepayers that had faced the largest increases as a result of the 2017 revaluation, subject to the following criteria.

  • The ratepayer must have had a rates liability on or before 31 March 2017
  • The property RV, or a combined total of all property RVs in the district, must be less than £200,000
  • The 2017/18 charge must have increased by more than 12.5% due to revaluation

Relief will generally not be awarded in the following circumstances:

  • National chains, groups, franchises, multi-nationals
  • Those already in receipt of mandatory or discretionary rate relief
  • Empty properties, unless exceptional circumstances apply
  • State-funded organisations such as schools or hospitals

Any applications for this relief must be able to demonstrate the negative impact of revaluation, any applications would be considered on a case by case basis.

The amount awarded will depend on the individual circumstances. However as a guide, the following principles will apply:

  • Where the 2017/18 net rates increase is between 12.5 and 20% compared to the previous year, the total amount awarded will not normally exceed 75% of the net increase.
  • Where the 2017/18 net rates increase is greater than 20% compared to the previous year, the total amount awarded will not normally exceed 90% of the net increase.

The relief is subject to the state aid De Minimis levels (see below).

To speed up the distribution of this relief most awards will be calculated and applied to accounts that meet the award criteria. This means that an application will not need to be made by the ratepayer in most cases.

Where separate applications are made these will be considered on their individual merits on a case by case basis.

State aid

The award of discretionary relief is considered likely to amount to state aid. However it will be state aid compliant where it is provided in accordance with the De Minimis Regulations.

The De Minimis Regulations allow an undertaking to receive up to 200,000 Euros over a rolling three-year period.

If you have received any such aid during the current or two previous financial years, from any source, you should tell us immediately.

Important note – March 2020: State Aid is being reviewed and we are awaiting further guidance which may remove the cap to allow business of any size to accept awards of discretionary relief (which includes Extended Retail Relief).