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Business Rates

Volume 490: debated on Monday 23 March 2009

Following the motion “to regret that the Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement) (Local Lists) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/204), laid before the House on 10 February, will not prevent several port companies from becoming insolvent”, the Government are placing their response on record.

A number of debates have taken place this year with reference to the occupiers of the properties affected by the ratings review of ports. The Government have listened carefully to the concerns put forward by the affected occupiers who, as a consequence of being separately assessed for rates from 1 April 2005 are in receipt of unexpected and significant backdated rate bills.

In the current economic conditions, the Government have constantly emphasised that they are concerned about the impact of significant and unexpected backdated rates liability on businesses. The ratings system has to be fair and equitable to all, and there is not a legislative solution for waiving tax liability which does not confer a disadvantage among other rate payers who have paid the rates that are legally established and due.

However, we believe, in the current economic circumstances, that there is a general case to assist all businesses liable to receive large, unexpected backdated bills that have to be paid immediately, as is the case with a number of companies, including some port-based businesses across the UK.

Following the Chancellor’s announcement in the pre-Budget report, therefore, the Government have put in place an unprecedented scheme to help all businesses, which may include some occupiers of ports, to pay significant and unexpected backdated rates liabilities over a period of eight years.

The Valuation Office Agency have also put in place special fast-track arrangements for ratepayers with backdated bills who want to question or challenge their assessment following the ports review, and will give priority attention to these cases at all stages.