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Reliefs and exemptions


The Council has the discretion to award relief to charities and other non-profit making organisations.

A non-profit organisation is an organisation that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals rather than distributing them as profit or dividends.

Charitable organisations, charity shops and registered community amateur sports clubs (CASC’s) already receiving 80% Mandatory relief can apply for further discretionary rate relief on the remaining 20% of the business rates charge.

It is important to note that the Council decides whether relief should be awarded on the circumstances of each application. There is no automatic right to receive relief.

Please note that Sefton Council’s policy only allows backdating of Discretionary Rate Relief providing an application for such relief has been received by 30th September of any relevant financial year. In respect of this application, Discretionary Rate Relief can only be backdated to 1st April of the previous financial year.

Further information and details on how to make an application can be found on the discretionary rate relief page of this website.

When a property becomes vacant it is exempt from business rates for three months except certain industrial properties which are exempt for six months. At the end of the rate-free period, rates are payable at 100% charge. Empty rate continues to be payable until somebody occupies the property.

It is important to note that the rate-free period applies to the property only. Therefore, if you purchase an empty property you will be immediately liable for empty rates if it has been vacant for more than the rate free period prior to you buying it.

Further information can be found on the empty property rate relief page of this website.

In very exceptional circumstances the Council can use its discretion to award a reduction in your business rates demand on the grounds of hardship. It is important to note that when deciding whether to award relief, the Council takes many factors into account. It is not sufficient that your business is not profitable.

Further information can be found on the hardship relief page of this website.

At the Autumn Statement on 22nd November 2023. The Chancellor announced the introduction of Improvement Relief with effect from 1st April 2024

This relief has been devised to support businesses seeking to invest in their properties. It ensures that, upon making qualifying improvements to properties that you occupy, you will not face a higher business rates bill for 12 months.

The Legislation stipulates that relief may be accessible for periods preceding 1.4.29. The Government’s intention is for this relief to be applicable to projects concluded by 31.3.28, with qualifying projects completed by that date receiving a 12-month relief benefit.

Any qualifying works must be completed before the 1.4.28. A definition of qualifying works has been provided as any which:
a. Increase the area of any building in or on the hereditament.
b. Otherwise improve the physical state of the hereditament.
c. Add rateable plant and machinery to the hereditament.

As such, newly constructed or refurbished hereditaments that were removed from the rating list during the period works will not qualify. A change of use or addition of land alone will also not meet the requirements for the relief.

This relief will be awarded upon certain conditions being met:

Firstly, that the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) are satisfied that the works meet the above criteria, and a certificate has been issued in relation to the hereditament (the same not having been withdrawn or ceased to have effect).

Secondly, that Sefton Council are satisfied that, in the period since the qualifying works commenced, the property has remained occupied, and the ratepayer of that hereditament (or a relevant predecessor hereditament) has not changed. By ensuring that the same ratepayer has remained in occupation, this enables the support to be directed to occupiers rather than landlords, developers or businesses inheriting improvements from previous occupiers.

There is no requirement to make an application for Improvement Relief and relief will be automatically awarded once Sefton Council are satisfied that the above conditions have been met.

Charities or trustees of a charity are entitled to an 80% reduction in their business rates if the property they occupy is wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes.

An organisation that is not registered as a charity may also claim this relief provided it has similar charitable aims.

Further information can be found on the mandatory charity relief page of this website.

From 1 April 2017 the Government is providing funding to local authorities so that they can provide a discount worth £1,500 in year 2017/18 and 2018/19 for office space occupied by local newspapers This is up to a maximum of one discount per local newspaper title and per hereditament, and up to state aid limits.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on 29th October 2018 at the Autumn Budget that the £1,500 business rates discount for office space occupied by local newspapers would be extended to 2019-2020, this has been further extended for an additional 5 years until March 2025.

The relief is to be specifically for local newspapers, what would be considered to be a “traditional local newspaper.” The relief will not be available to magazines.

To qualify the property must be occupied by a local newspaper and wholly or mainly used as office premises for journalists and reporters.

The amount of relief is limited to a maximum of one discount per newspaper title and per property.

Please contact the business rates team on 0151 934 4360 or by email  if you wish to make an application.

Subsidy Control

The award of Local Newspaper Relief is likely to amount to subsidy. Further details on Subsidy Control can be found on the Business Rates – Subsidy Control page.

If your property is only partly occupied, the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) may be able to value the occupied and unoccupied parts of the property separately. The unoccupied part would then be eligible for empty property rate relief.

If the VOA is unable to value the parts separately and the property is to remain partly occupied for a short period of time only, you may be eligible to claim section 44a part occupied relief. 

Further information can be found on the part occupied relief page of this website.

The Government has provided Councils with guidance to provide a discretionary relief scheme for businesses with effect from 1st April 2023. This scheme has now been extended for another year from 1st April 2024.

The Council has determined that, in accordance with that guidance, businesses may qualify for a discount in the following categories:

  • shop
  • restaurant, café, bar, or pub
  • cinema or music venue
  • hospitality or leisure business - for example, a gym, a spa, a casino, or a hotel

Further information can be found on the Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Relief Scheme page of this website.

Certain types of properties in a rural settlement with a population below 3,000 may be entitled to relief. The property must be the only general store, the only post office or a food shop and have a rateable value of less than £8,500, or the only public house or the only petrol station and have a rateable value of less than £12,500. The property has to be occupied.

From 1st April 2024 an eligible ratepayer is entitled to receive 100% Mandatory Rural Rate Relief.

Further information can be found on the rural rate relief page of this website.

The Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) scheme is designed to help small businesses reduce their Business Rate demand.

From 1st April 2017 ratepayers who are not entitled to another mandatory relief and who occupy a single property with a rateable value of up to £15,000 are eligible for Small Business Rate Relief. In certain circumstances ratepayers who occupy more than one property may also be eligible for Small Business Rate Relief, although relief will only be applied to the main property.

Businesses which received small business rates relief in 20016/2017 and continue to meet the conditions which apply at the time of the 2017 revaluation will continue to receive small business rates relief automatically. The requirement to notify their billing authority if they are no longer eligible for relief will continue to apply.

The relief does not apply to empty properties.

Further information can be found on the small business rate relief page of this website.

The new statutory subsidy control regime replaced EU state aid rules, which applied in the UK until the end of the transition period in December 2020.

Further information can be found on the subsidy control page of this website.

The Supporting Small Business Rate Relief scheme is designed to help small businesses facing an increase in their rate bills following the 2023 revaluation.

Further information can be found on the supporting small business rate relief page on this website.

From the 1 April 2023 the government have put into place a transitional relief scheme to limit and phase in increases in rate bills as a result of the 2023 revaluation.

The scheme does not apply to those in downward transition to lower bills; they will fall to their full bill on 1 April 2023.

Transitional relief is applied automatically and is shown on the front of your rate demand.

Further information on the new scheme can be found on the Transitional Relief Scheme page on this website.

Relief from Business Rates

Section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 as amended by Section 69 of the Localism Act 2011 gives the Council a general power having given consideration to the interest of local Council Taxpayers, to award rate relief to any ratepayer. Each case is considered on its own merits and the Council will consider the implications for the economic gain to the Council over the medium term, including business rate income, social value arising from creation of employment and community gain.

Last Updated on Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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