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Business rate reductions

Unoccupied property rating

In general, there will be no business rates to pay in the first three months that a property is empty. This is extended to six months in the case of certain industrial properties. After that, rates are payable in full unless the property is exempt from the unoccupied rates.

Exemptions include listed buildings, and small properties with rateable values below a certain threshold. These thresholds are:

Rateable Value Thresholds
Year Rateable Value
2008/09 £2200  RV
2009/10 £15000 RV
2010/11 £18000 RV
2011/12 (to 2015) £2600  RV

Are there any exemptions to this charge?

After the initial three or six month free period expires, the empty property will be liable for 100% of the basic occupied business rate unless:-

  • It is held by a charity and appears likely to be next used for charitable purposes.
  • It is held by a community amateur sports club and appears to be next used for the purpose of the club.
  • The rateable value of the property is less than £2,600 (with effect from 1st April 2011)
  • The owner is prohibited by law from occupying the property.
  • The owner is prohibited by action taken by the crown, or any other local or public authority from occupying the premises.
  • The property is included in the schedule of monuments compiled under s.1 to the ancient monuments and archaeological areas act 1979.
  • The owner is entitled to possession only in his capacity as the personal representative of a deceased person.

If the following insolvency or debt administration situation exists:

  • A bankruptcy order within parts 8 to 11 of the insolvency act 1986.
  • The owner is a trustee under a deed of arrangement to which the deeds of arrangement act 1914 applies.
  • The owner is a company subject to a winding up order made under the insolvency act 1986.
  • The owner is entitled to possession of the property in his capacity as liquidator or administrator under s112 or s145 of the insolvency act 1986.

New Build Empty Property Relief

The government has introduced as a temporary measure the power for Local Authorities to grant an exemption to unoccupied non domestic hereditaments that are wholly or mainly comprised of new structures that are completed after the 1st October 2013 and before the 30th September 2016 subject to state aid limits.

For guidance on state aid please follow this link:- https://www.gov.uk/state-aid

For further information on this exemption and to obtain details on how to apply please contact our section on the contact details provided below.

What if my property is in poor condition or under repair or renovation?

If your property is in poor condition and cannot be economically repaired, the valuation officer may judge that it should be taken out of the rating list altogether. If you are currently undertaking substantial refurbishment or reconstruction of the premises the valuation officer may consider a temporary reduction in the rateable value of your property.

Decisions on such matters cannot be made by the council and you should contact the Valuation Officer promptly and directly with queries of this nature. The valuation officer is an officer of HM Revenues and Customs and can be contacted on 03000 501501 or through the Valuation Officer website

However you should be aware that empty rates will be payable if the property is shown on the Rating List, irrespective of its condition.

New anti-avoidance legislation

If property is damaged in order to avoid paying rates the Valuation Office will be required to disregard the change in the property's state when assessing its rateable value. For instance if the roof is removed from an empty property for the purpose of avoiding rates, it may be valued as if the roof had not been removed and rates will still be payable.

Can I appeal against the change in my rates liability?

The changes in rates liability arising from the reforms to empty property relief are not in themselves grounds for appeal. However, if you disagree with the rateable value that appears in the current rating list for your property, under the existing arrangements you may challenge it by making a 'proposal' against it to your local valuation office.

Partly occupied property relief

A ratepayer is liable for the full non-domestic rate whether a property is wholly occupied or only partly occupied. Where a property is partly occupied for a short time Lancaster City Council has the discretion to award relief in respect of any unoccupied part subject to state aid limits. For further guidance on state aid please visit https://www.gov.uk/state-aid.

To apply for this relief you must contact the Business Rate Section as soon as partial occupancy begins. An inspection of the premises will be arranged to confirm the partial occupancy. You may also be required to provide a plan of the premises so that the Valuation Office Agency can accurately apportion the rateable value between the occupied and unoccupied areas.

Charitable and discretionary relief

Charities are entitled to relief from rates on any non-domestic property that is wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes. Relief is given at 80% of the bill. Local councils have discretion to give further relief on the remaining bill subject to state aid limits.

Authorities also have discretion to give relief on all or part of any rate bill for properties occupied by certain non-profit making bodies subject to state aid limits.

From 1st April 2012 the council may also grant up to 100% relief to any ratepayer subject to state aid limits.

For further guidance on state aid please visit https://www.gov.uk/state-aid.

Rate relief for community amateur sports clubs

There are provisions allowing for 80% mandatory rate relief to be granted to sports clubs that have registered with the Inland Revenue as community amateur sports clubs (CASC). In addition CASCs benefit from a range of tax reliefs through HM Revenue and Customs.

You are likely to to be successful in applying for registration if you can answer "yes" to all of the following questions:

  1. is membership of the club open to the whole community?
  2. are all club facilities available to all members without discrimination?
  3. does the club's constitution prevent club profits being distributed amongst its members?
  4. does the club provide facilities for, and to encourage, participation in an eligible sport?
  5. does the club's constitution provide that on dissolution of the club, any net assets are to be applied for approved sporting or charitable purposes?

Further information on CASC registration and the relevant application forms can be viewed and downloaded at


or call the HM Revenue and Customs Sports Clubs Unit on 0845 3020203

Rate relief for businesses in rural areas

The scheme provides for rate relief for those businesses in small settlements in rural areas with a population below 3000, and consists of two elements:

50% Mandatory relief is applicable to:

  • The sole general store, a food store and the sole post office in a qualifying settlement, whose rateable value is less than £8,500
  • The sole public house and the sole petrol filling station in a qualifying settlement, whose rateable value is less than £12,500

Discretionary relief may be granted to any business in the settlement, whose rateable value is less than £16,500,  which the authority believes is of benefit to the local community. However in exercising this discretion the council must have regard to the interests of its council tax payers as a whole.

What are rural areas and qualifying settlements?

Rural areas are defined by legislation and for this council include all parishes with the exception of Bolton le Sands, Carnforth and Slyne with Hest.

Qualifying settlements must be within a designated rural area and have a population of no more than 3,000 on the prior 31st December. These are reviewed where necessary.

For the purposes of this relief, as all the rural parishes have a population of no more than 3,000, it is proposed that they all be treated as rural settlements with the exception of the following:

Caton with Littledale be split between Caton and Brookhouse (including Littledale).

Ellel be split between Dolphinholme, Galgate (to the West of the railway line and North of Salford Road) and the remainder.

What are the qualifying criteria?

A general store must be a business consisting wholly or mainly of the retail sale of both food for human consumption (excluding confectionery) and general household goods, and no other such business is carried on in the settlement. Confectionery does not count as food for the purpose of deciding whether a shop is general store.

When deciding whether a business is a general store, food and general household goods are considered as a single unit and together they must form the majority of the goods on sale.

A food store must be a business consisting wholly or mainly of the sale by retail of food for human consumption (excluding confectionery and excluding the supply of food in the course of catering).

The supply of food in the course of catering includes any supply of food for consumption on the premises on which it is supplied; and any supply of hot food for consumption off those premises.

A post office must be used for the purposes within the meaning of the Post Office Act 1953, and no other property in the settlement is used as such.

A public house means premises for which a justices’ on-licence, within the meaning of the Licensing Act 1964 (other than under Part IV of that Act) is in force.

Petrol filling station means premises where petrol or other automotive fuels are sold retail to the general public for fuelling motor vehicles intended or adapted for use on roads.

What if there are two such premises in the settlement?

With the exception of food stores, unfortunately neither can qualify for mandatory relief on that basis, although if either functions as a post office then relief may be claimed on that ground.

If I get 50% mandatory relief, can I also claim discretionary relief?

Yes, additional discretionary relief can be claimed, to take the total relief up to the actual rate charge subject to state aid limits.

Can other businesses apply for discretionary relief?

Yes, discretionary relief can be claimed up to the amount of the actual rate charge subject to state aid limits.

Pure discretionary relief for other businesses in a rural settlement will be considered where there is a proven need for financial assistance. In such cases the business must benefit the local community, taking into account the financial impact on Council Tax Payers.

Search rural areas and business premises

View an interactive map of rural areas and qualifying premises

• On the map you can search for a specific address, or drag, scroll and zoom to an area.
• Tick the relevant boxes on the right hand side to view food shops, petrol stations and pubs.
• Click on points on the map to bring up further information.

Hardship Relief

The council at its discretion, can award up to 100% relief from business rates to ratepayers who are experiencing hardship subject to state aid limits. However, as the council funds a significant part of the relief itself, cases will only be considered if they are in the interest of the community. Each case will be considered on its own merits but any reduction is the exception rather than  the rule. The test of 'hardship' is not confined strictly to financial hardship - all relevant factors affecting a ratepayer's ability to meet its liability are taken into account.

Also, the council must bear in mind the fact that the government has modernised empty property relief because it is committed to promoting the efficient use of land and property and provide a positive incentive to bring vacant shops, offices, workshops and warehouses back into use. These reforms are intended to encourage owners to re-let, re-develop or sell unused property, thus, improving access to premises and reducing rents for businesses, as well as reducing the need for development on greenfield land.

Retail Discounts

From 1 April 2014 the Government is giving funding to local authorities so that they can provide a discount of up to £1,000 for 2014-15 and up to £1,500 for 2015-16 to occupied retail premises with a rateable value of £50,000 or less. In many cases this relief will show automatically on the bill. If it has not been given and you think you are entitled to it please complete and return the Retail Relief Application Form.

Download an application form from Download a Business Rate Document.                    The Government is also giving funding to local authorities so they can provide a 50% discount for 18 months for those businesses that move into retail premises that have been empty for a year or more. This is available for businesses which move into empty premises between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2016. If it has not been awarded and you think you are entitled please contact our section on the contact details provided below immediately.

The award of either of these discounts is subject to state aid. However, it will be state aid compliant where it is provided in accordance with the De Minimis Regulations.

For guidance on state aid please follow this link : https://www.gov.uk/state-aid

Small Business Rate Relief

See: Small Business Rate Relief  

Discretionary Rate Relief Policy

See: Discretionary Rate Relief Policy

How do I apply?

Contact the Business Rates team at the address below.

Alternatively, download an application form from Download a Business Rate Document.



The Rating Section
Revenue Services
PO Box 4
Town Hall




01524 582920

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