Budget 2024 – Business Rates Update

Landlords’ empty property costs to rise from April due to new legislation

Empty Property Relief

The government has acted to extend the Empty Property Relief ‘reset period’ from six weeks to thirteen weeks from 1 April 2024.  This will require an amendment to ‘The Non-Domestic Rating (Unoccupied Property) (England) Regulations 2008’. The regulations are expected to be published within the coming days.

The effect of this change is that from 1 April 2024, a property must be occupied for a minimum of thirteen weeks before it can receive the relevant three-month empty property relief(offices/retail) or six months empty property relief(industrial).  Prior to 1 April 2024 the occupation period required was six weeks.

General Anti-Avoidance Rule’ – ‘GAAR’

The Government has published a summary of responses following the Business Rates Avoidance and Evasion Consultation which ended in September 2023, you can view this here

In addition, to confirming the change in the reset period for empty property relief, the government have indicated their intention to undertake a further consultation looking at the introduction of a ‘general anti-avoidance rule’.

The GAAR would seek to provide local and central government with greater agility to tackle avoidance and review new threats and avoidance schemes as they emerge.

The consultation will look into how the rule could work in practice.  As with the Business Rates Avoidance and Evasion Consultation, the consultation will request input from local authorities, agents, businesses and representative bodies with further information to follow.

It will be interesting to see whether the tone of this rule will follow the powers afforded to Scottish councils under Non Domestic Rates (Miscellaneous Anti Avoidance Measures) (Scotland) regulations 2023 which can be viewed here where, within prescribed circumstances, councils can make the owner rather than the occupier liable for the payment of rates; or disregard deliberate physical changes to the state of the property solely for the purposes of avoiding or reducing the rates liability.

This change came along with the devolution of empty property relief to individual local authorities from 1.4.2023.  Whilst this subject was addressed partly within the business rates avoidance and evasion consultation in England and 63% of respondents were against any introduction of local authority discretion relating to empty property relief, it is clear there will be scope should a ‘GAAR’ be introduced, for local authorities to increase their ability to ‘disrupt’ avoidance activity and therefore likely to afford local authorities powers similar to those now in place in Scotland.

Film Studios Relief

Also announced yesterday was a ‘40% reduction on gross business rates bills until 2034’ for eligible film studios with guidance on this to follow.

As we look towards the new looming financial year it’s worth remembering there are several factors that come into play at once that affect business rate bills, including any changes in the  multiplier and transitional reliefs.


As a reminder, business rate liabilities are calculated by applying a multiplier to the Rateable Value (RV). For England, this has frozen since the Pandemic at £0.499 for properties with an RV of under £51,000 and £0.512 for those above. However, and whilst the small property multiplier remains unchanged for 2024/25, the large property multiplier is increasing by 6.7% to £0.546. Scotland and Wales set their own RV and multipliers.

Wales’ multiplier covers all properties and this increased to £0.562 – higher than England – and Scotland is freezing its Basic Property Rate, or poundage, at 49.8p alongside inflationary increases to the Intermediate and Higher Property Rates, at 54.5p and 55.9p respectively.