Empty rates mitigation schemes represented “misuse of legal process”

The Supreme Court has found that empty rates mitigation schemes using special purpose vehicles involved a misuse of the legal process which, on the facts of these cases, entitled the billing authorities to claim empty rates from the building owners, rather than from the special purpose vehicle companies. This judgment is another in a now long line of cases regarding empty rates mitigation schemes and will be of significant concern to those seeking to mitigate empty rate liabilities in this way.

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Empty rates mitigation scheme was legal and effective

The High Court has found that an empty rates mitigation scheme involving intermittent occupation of a building complex that was otherwise vacant was an effective and legal strategy to reduce empty rate liabilities. The decision is the latest in a long line of cases disputing empty rates mitigation schemes, and will be greeted with some relief by owners of empty properties. The judgment also sets out helpful guidance on “occupation” for rating purposes, and a protocol for resolving disputes about rateable occupation. ...Read More

Rating appeal struck out as invalidly made

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has struck out an appeal made by a ratepayer against the rating assessment of its property, on the basis that the appeal was made on the same grounds as a previous appeal that had already been determined by the Valuation Tribunal for England, and was therefore invalid. Ratepayers seeking to appeal against the assessment of a property need to be aware of the “one bite of the cherry” rule. ...Read More

Rates mitigation scheme ineffective because of “sham” leases

The High Court has determined that leases put in place for an empty rates mitigation scheme were “sham” transactions and, as a consequence, the rates mitigation scheme was ineffective and the owner of the building was liable for empty rates. The Court dismissed an appeal by the ratepayer against a ruling by the Magistrates’ Court in Leeds that the transactions were shams. This is the latest in a now lengthy series of legal challenges to rates mitigation schemes. ...Read More

COVID-19 “material change” business rates appeals to be quashed

The Government has announced that it will introduce legislation to “rule out” business rates appeals made seeking reductions in assessment because of any “material change of circumstances” resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, an additional £1.5 billion of support will be made available to businesses affected by the pandemic that have not, so far, been eligible for business rates relief. The additional relief will be made available through local authorities, on application by affected ratepayers. Applications will commence only once the legislation to suppress appeals is in place. ...Read More