Business rates experts at Colliers International have called for the Government to introduce a three-month or even six-month business rates deferment scheme to help businesses impacted by the Coronavirus.
A three-month rates deferment scheme would mean that businesses are given a three months period in which they would not need to pay their business rates – which would eventually be paid back as times improve.
This could be extended to six months if needed. Because this will be paid back, such a scheme would not be subject to restrictive State Aid rules**, as current Government relief measures are.
The Government would then need to plug the hole caused in local authority finances during this immediate period, but this would be repaid later.
John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers International, said: “This three-month rate deferment would at least give businesses some breathing space to maintain their cash flow.
“Given that we could be seeing one of the worst pandemics in our life time, with a devastating resulting economic impact as shoppers keep away from stores and restaurants, warehousing for imported goods stay empty and increasingly office staff stay at home, the Government must introduce some emergency measures to support a wider section of business than it is currently proposing.”
In addition, Colliers says that if the impact of Coronavirus continues, businesses should also be able to claim a “Material Change of Circumstance” when appealing their business rates bills.
Although these appeals would be dealt with normally over a lengthy period, the Government could and should instruct the Valuation Office Agency to make immediate temporary reductions in the Rateable Value where footfall or turnover is impacted.