Business rate shame of London embassies

Stuart Hicks, Manchester Office, Director - Dunlop HeywoodBy Stuart Hicks, Director

This isn’t an in-depth technical piece on business rates but just more of a snippet of news that you might find interesting.

According to a question tabled this week in Parliament, foreign embassies owe the UK government more than £1m in business rates.

In a written statement, foreign office minister Lord Ahmad said £1,049,999 due to be paid before the end of December 2016 was outstanding. This represents a rise of 16 per cent on 2015 figures.

Officially, diplomatic representatives are exempt from paying all national, regional or municipal taxes for their buildings. However, the government encourages them to pay some of their bill, usually around six per cent, and some are certainly better than others.

The Sudan embassy owed the most, with £109,599 outstanding. Bangladesh’s high commission and the Iranian embassy were in second and third spots, both also owing over £100,000. The Syrian embassy owes more than £50,000, but due to the country “not currently represented” in the UK, payments unsurprisingly won’t be collected. I’m not quite sure why Parliament was worrying itself over these figures in the first place; if these taxes can be paid voluntarily then surely there will always be embassies which choose not to. It would probably be just as irrelevant but interesting to see if British embassies abroad settle their tax bills – we probably do as the world’s best queuers and rule followers.

Even further from the field of business rates but, again in a similar vein, separate figures released show that during 2016 diplomatic missions and international organisations incurred total parking fines of £430,216 in London. Of these £327,962 has still yet to be paid. Sudan again topped the list for the most outstanding, owing £83,215. Oversea diplomats also owe a tidy £105m in outstanding London congestion charges. Top of the list here was the US embassy, which owes £11.5m.

I feel a Daily Mail story coming our way.