Insight

Discretionary Rates Relief: another lifeline?

Many of you may not be aware that a Billing Authority has the power to decide under the Local Government Finance Act s.47(1) to charge less than the full amount of non-domestic rates due. It may grant discretionary relief if it is satisfied that it would be reasonable to do so, having regard to the interests of other ratepayers.

To invoke the powers, the Billing Authority needs to be satisfied:

A. That you would be in financial difficulties without the relief; and that

B. Giving hardship relief to you is in the interests of local people.

Hardship has been tested by the courts previously (R v Liverpool City Council ex p Windsor Securities Ltd [1979] RA 159, CA.)

So, what are the next steps…

If you decide to apply for discretionary relief on the grounds of hardship:

*   Your letter must clearly set out your case for hardship and you must answer the following questions:

*   In all the circumstances have you satisfied the Billing Authority that payment of non-domestic rates would cause hardship meaning they should reduce or remit the payment? (see A. above) and Why should the Billing Authority reduce or remit the charge having regard to that hardship? (see B. above).

*   You must set out the benefit that you provide to the locality.

*   You must ask the Billing Authority to exercise its discretion on the grounds of hardship.

You should be aware that the charging of non-domestic rates to a company with substantial assets may not cause hardship to that company; hardship is a matter of degree.

It would be wise to take advice before launching an application to maximise your chances of success. Good luck.

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