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This research briefing summarises existing mandatory reliefs from business rates, and current and recent temporary relief schemes, in England.

What are business rates?

Business rates are a property tax paid by occupants of non-domestic properties. The basic rates bill is determined by multiplying the rateable value of a property (a ‘hereditament’ or ‘heritage’) by the ‘multiplier’. Properties’ rateable values are set by the Valuation Office Agency in England and Wales, the Assessors in Scotland, and Land and Property Services in Northern Ireland.

The Commons Library research briefing Business rates contains more information on the operation of the business rates system.

What are business rate reliefs?

Ratepayers may be eligible for one or more of many mandatory and discretionary reliefs on their bill. In England, billing authorities (district and unitary councils) are responsible for deciding whether ratepayers are entitled to any reliefs. Ratepayers can appeal against the billing authority’s decision. If the occupier of the property changes, the entitlement to business rate relief may also change.

Business rates are entirely devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The devolved administrations are responsible for setting mandatory reliefs.

The UK Government website provides a list of reliefs available in England. The devolved administrations provide equivalent lists for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Reliefs relating to the Covid-19 pandemic

Billing authorities were also responsible for distributing some of the support grants available to businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. The eligibility criteria for many of these grants related to the rateable value of a business’s property. As with reliefs, billing authorities were responsible for deciding on businesses’ eligibility for these grants.

This research briefing provides details of the various grant schemes operating in England in 2020/21 and 2021/22. Similar schemes operated in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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