Insight

ATM business rate ruling set to head back to the courts – again

The Valuation Office Agency has won the right to appeal the Court of Appeal judgement concerning the rateability of the sites of cash machines outside and within retail premises.

The issue has made headlines once again following a Supreme Court ruling that the VOA can challenge the judgement, which was in favour of ratepayers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and The Co-op which said that the majority of such sites are not rateable.

Had that ruling stayed unchallenged then ratepayers stood to recover around £300m in business rates that had been paid on such ATM sites. The ruling, unsurprisingly, was welcomed by the British Retail Consortium at the time and the Court of Appeal actually said the VOA shouldn’t be allowed to challenge its decision.

I’ve written about this several times over recent years but you can trace the origins of this business rates’ row back to 2013 when the VOA originally won the case before the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) which said that the majority of such sites were rateable.

And yet here we are. The legal juggernaut trundles on to the next appeal stage and the threat of retailers removing ATMS from their premises is back in the frame – not to mention the eye-watering legal fees both sides of this argument must be paying.

As always, this appeal will not be resolved quickly so, the prospect of rebates that ratepayers were celebrating last November was premature, in a sector that sees many under great pressure.

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When I won Stringer (VO) -v- J Sainsbury plc and Others [1992] RA16 (LT) and the VOA accepted the decision, I rather thought that the matter was resolved; but it has come back!

I await the outcome with great interest…..

By Peter Scrafton

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