Like many Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) around the country, we have for some time been pressing government for a reform of the business rates system. The amount of business rates payable is calculated as a proportion of the rateable value (RV) of each property which, in turn, reflects its likely rental value. Historically, RVs have been reassessed every 5-years to reflect changing rental values (although government has recently made this more frequent), businesses with RVs of less than £12,500 have been exempt, and those with RVs of less than £50,000 have been given some concessions.
As a result of the Coronavirus crisis, the Bank of England has cut interests rates to 0.5%, and the Chancellor announced in his budget a range of stimulus measures to assist businesses. One important measure was to exempt any business occupiers - such as shops, bars, cinemas, restaurants and hotels - with a RV of less than £51,000 from liability for business rates for the next financial year. The Budget also included announcements on:
- Statutory sick pay (at least £94.25 a week) - which must be provided for anyone who chooses to self-isolate, even if they have no symptoms.
- Statutory sick pay - which must be provided from day one, rather than after four days.
- The government will refund up to two weeks of statutory sick pay for all firms with fewer than 250 employees.
- Small businesses can get ‘business interruption loans’ of up to £1.2m to help deal with disruption.
- Business rates will be abolished (for this year only) for commercial properties with a rateable value of under £51,000. After this year they are likely to return to normal, but with a 50 per cent discount for small businesses.
- Pubs will get an increased business rates discount, rising from £1,000 to £5,000
- A £3,000 grant for all small businesses that can currently claim small business rates relief.
This is good news, but given the severity of the crisis it is clearly not enough. On your behalf, we are actively lobbying local and central government to go further. There are likely to be further announcements in the next few days and we will keep you updated on these.
We are here to support your business through this challenging trading period, and will do our best to keep Tunbridge Wells 'Open for Business'.
Additional advice and guidance can be found on the website of the Department of Business, Energy & Industry Strategy - Click Here
Chief Executive - Tunbridge Wells Together
To help answer some of the queries you may have, please see our Q&A below:
Q: What are you doing to support my business?
A: Tunbridge Wells Together exists specifically to represent and support businesses in Tunbridge Wells. Your business. The levy we collect is directly spent on supporting your business and the town centre. We are working with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and many others to put together a plan for the survival of the town centre. We are also actively re-working our budgets to prioritise services and support for you, your business and the town centre during this unprecedented crisis.
Q: If I am struggling to pay my business rates and levy invoice am I entitled to any help?
A: Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Kent County Council are committed to supporting companies through this challenging period. Call their business rates team and ask for help, they may be able to offer a repayment plan for your rates bills. Their number should be on the back of your invoice.
Q: If I am benefiting from a business rates holiday, does that mean I don't have to pay the BID levy?
A: No, I'm afraid it doesn't. The new measures do not exempt you from the levy, which is charged a % of rateable value and so nothing changes.
Q: Is the Chancellor’s announcement good news for businesses in our BID area?
A: For those with RVs of between £12,500 and £51,000, it will lower their costs compared to the current year. However, for businesses with RVs of over £51,000, nothing changes. We are lobbying hard for further opportunities to support businesses with a higher RV.
Q: How do I distinguish business rates from BID levy?
A: BID levy is a local charge on businesses following your adoption of our business plan via a ballot; therefore, it is locally charged and locally spent. Business rates is a system of taxation on businesses that is paid up to Government and merely collected locally.