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. ...Read More

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

Rating assessment not deleted as works had not commenced

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has dismissed an appeal made by a ratepayer seeking deletion of the rating assessment of a property that was to be redeveloped because, at the relevant date, the works to alter and redevelop the property had not commenced and it was still capable of beneficial occupation. The Upper Tribunal’s decision reminds ratepayers and others that it is works that render a property incapable of beneficial occupation, rather than an intention to redevelop, that dictate when a property should be deleted from the rating list. ...Read More

Valuation Tribunal cannot quash a Completion Notice

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has allowed an appeal against a decision of the Valuation Tribunal for England that quashed a Completion Notice issued by the London Borough of Newham in respect of a new building in East London. The Upper Tribunal also determined a completion date for the new property. The decision is of particular interest at present as new buildings may be completed, but remain unoccupied because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. ...Read More

Rating appeals struck out as an “abuse of process”

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has struck out two appeals by ratepayers in cases where the rating assessment of the appeal property had previously been agreed by the ratepayer concerned. The appeals that were struck out were considered by the Tribunal to be an abuse of process, and to have no chance of success in the light of the earlier agreements in respect of the properties concerned. But an appeal by a new ratepayer in respect of one of these properties was not struck out, because the new ratepayer was not bound by the agreement made by its predecessor. Ratepayers seeking to make “interim agreements” will need to consider these cases carefully. ...Read More

Proposals to alter 2010 rating lists were made out of time

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has considered proposals made following the coming into force of the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Act 2018 and the amended regulations which followed it. The Act was intended to reverse the effects of the decision of the UK Supreme Court in Woolway (VO) v Mazars LLP [2015] and allow units of property that were contiguous and were occupied together to be merged to form a single hereditament for rating purposes. The regulations introduced following the coming into force of the Act allowed proposals to be made to alter the 2010 rating lists, which would otherwise have been out of time. The question before the Tribunal was whether the proposals made in these cases came within that category. ...Read More

No reinstatement of rateable value following works of alteration

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has dismissed an appeal by the Valuation Officer against a refusal by the Valuation Tribunal for England to delete the assessment of a warehouse property for a temporary period only, during works of alteration. The Upper Tribunal found that the Valuation Tribunal for England had been correct to refuse to exercise a discretionary power to make an order which would result in the rating list being significantly inaccurate, when it had been within the power of the Valuation Officer to enter an accurate valuation and he had failed to do so within the period allowed. ...Read More

No compulsory winding up of rates avoidance companies

The Court of Appeal has dismissed appeals by the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy seeking the compulsory winding up, on public interest grounds, of companies operating schemes designed to avoid business rates. The appeals are the latest in an extensive line of cases in which central and local government have sought to defeat business rates avoidance schemes. In these latest cases the Court of Appeal found that there was no public interest that justified the compulsory winding up of the companies operating these schemes. ...Read More