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COVID-19 Response: Support for Businesses with Properties (last updated 6 April 2020)

The Chancellor first outlined plans for rates reliefs for businesses elsewhere in the UK in his budget on 11 March, which was followed by the Scottish Finance Secretary’s announcement on 14 March (as business rates for properties in Scotland are overseen by the Scottish government). These reliefs were then superseded on 17 and 18 March 2020 respectively as the scale of the issues caused by the coronavirus became apparent.

The UK guidance can be found on the gov.uk website but as the Scottish measures will be more relevant to our clients we have summarised them below:

  • A full year's 100% non-domestic rates relief from 1 April 2020 for businesses in the retail, hospitality and tourism sectors
  • £10,000 grants for small businesses that already qualify for full rates relief via the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief
  • £25,000 grants for businesses with hospitality, leisure and retail properties with rateable values between £18,000 and £51,000
  • 1.6% rates relief for all properties across Scotland from 1 April 2020, effectively cancelling the planned rates rise that was due to take effect

Other than the general rates freeze on all properties these measures should assist businesses with properties being used as shops, restaurants, cafes, public houses, cinemas, music venues, gyms and other leisure facilities, hotels and guest houses.

The rates reliefs should be automatically applied by local authorities to bills for the 2020/21 year (which will need to be reissued).

Claims for grant support can now be made, and businesses operating in the Highland Council area can go to the following web page to access the claim form Highland Council grant claim. To be eligible for this support the business needs to have been in occupation of their premises on 17 March 2020. Detailed eligibility rules are available on the quoted page.

SELF-CATERING

The original guidance had excluded self-catering accommodation from the grant support but after significant pressure this sector has been included. This has now been amended so where caravans and self-catering accommodation form a primary income source for a ratepayer (defined as being responsible for at least 1/3 of income) and was let out for 140 days or more in 2019-20 then a claim can be made for either £10k or £25k (one claim per ratepayer). Highland Council has a separate form for this aside from the general business claim and this can be found HERE.

Evidence must be submitted along with the claim and this should include the ratepayer's tax return (either 2018/19 or 2019/20 when available) along with evidence of the 140 days' worth of bookings in 2019/20. For limited company ratepayers the profit and loss account from annual accounts will provide income evidence so long as the self-catering income is identifiable. It may be that additional evidence will be required to prove this - we can assist you with this. The evidence of bookings can be in the form of a print/report from an online booking engine or your own website, or a printed summary of your booking calendar.

The Council aims to process all claims within 10 days.

March 23, 2020

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