Business Rates – when two into one won’t go!

The Supreme Court has brought clarity to the issue of two floors of offices (second and sixth) that were occupied by the same company (Mazars) where the Valuation Tribunal England decided on appeal that there should be one rating assessment for both floors.

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) disagreed with this as it drove a ‘coach and horses’ through previous case law on this subject and had enormous implications for them, as occupiers in similar circumstances could seek to merge rating assessments where they were in the same building (or parade) but were not actually adjacent or contiguous.

The VOA had appealed to the Upper Chamber and Court of Appeal and lost.  They have however now succeeded in the Supreme Court who have ruled that there should be two separate rating assessments.  The Supreme Court decision means the previous understanding prevails: separately occupied properties will be separately assessed although there are one or two (different) circumstances where separate properties can be assessed together.

Is this an important decision?  Paul Easton National Head of Business Rates at Lambert Smith Hampton thinks so:

“Rating consultants and their clients were eagerly waiting to see if separate assessments could be merged. If they could, it could make reductions in the total rateable values possible because of lower rates being adopted for a bigger occupation and might open the door to allowances to reduce the rating assessment on the basis of the combined property. The VOA will clearly be breathing a sigh of relief.  Had the decision gone the other way they would have been deluged with rating appeals to merge separate rating assessments that could be a single possibly lower rating assessment. VOA one: business community nil.”