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Rates: Business Rates

Volume 713: debated on Tuesday 20 October 2009


My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Barbara Follett) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Following the Motion “to regret that the Non-Domestic Rating (Deferred Payments) (England) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/1597), laid before the House on 6 July, does not remove the retrospective application of a revaluation of non-domestic rates for port-side operators”, the Government are placing their response on record.

The business rates deferral scheme, which these regulations established, is not aimed at businesses that find themselves with significant and unexpected backdated rates liability, like some port businesses. Instead, this scheme allows all ratepayers who wish to apply to get help with their cash flow during the current economic climate, by enabling them to spread increases in their 2009-10 rates bills over three years, to 2011-12.

However, there have been a number of debates over the past year which refer to the occupiers of properties affected by the ratings review of ports. The Government have listened carefully to the concerns raised by affected businesses that, as a result of the review, they are being separately assessed for rates for the first time, and are now in receipt of unexpected and significant backdated rate bills.

In the current economic conditions, the Government are concerned about the impact that significant and unexpected backdated rates liability could have on businesses. The ratings system has to be fair and equitable to all, and waiving a tax liability for some would confer a disadvantage among other ratepayers who have paid their legally established rates.

Given the present economic circumstances the Government believe that there is a general case to be made for assisting 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 England.

Therefore, the Government have put in place the Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement) (Local Lists) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/204), to help all businesses, including some in port areas, to pay significant and unexpected backdated rates liabilities over a period of eight years.