Business Rates’ latest from Northern Ireland

The statement by Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy last week illustrates the purpose behind the proposed Non-domestic Rates Valuations (Coronavirus) Bill for the province.

As already widely understood, Covid-19 will not be allowable matter for appeals in respect of the current 2020 valuation list; because of the substantial support given in terms of rates relief and grants. However, within his speech he goes on to say that Covid-19 will be an allowable matter in respect of the forthcoming 2023 revaluation.

He said: “The Bill under discussion today is a short but important one. It corrects an unintended consequence of the public health measures that were introduced in response to the pandemic. Article 39A of the Rates Order 1977 requires events that affect the physical enjoyment of a property, and where they could affect its rental value, to be taken into account when assessing the net annual value (NAV). Article 39A was intended to apply to localised events, such as the Primark fire in Belfast in 2018; it was not designed to deal with a general pandemic. Therefore, the legislation will remove the impact of COVID-19 as a valid ground for appealing net annual values in the 2020 list. Similar legislation is being introduced in England, Wales and Scotland.

 “To be clear, the Bill will not affect the right of ratepayers to appeal net annual values for any other reason. It is also the case that businesses have been financially supported in response to the pandemic. Businesses here have received rate relief and grants on a more generous basis than those in England, and that far outweighs any potential refund that they would have got under article 39A.

 “A new revaluation is under way that will reflect the impact of the pandemic on the property market at 1 October 2021. I will propose to the Executive that an estimated £50 million Barnett consequential from the equivalent legislation in Westminster be ring-fenced to support business ratepayers in the next financial year. Those are the ways in which the impact of the pandemic on businesses should be and has been responded to. Article 39A is not an appropriate vehicle for dealing with the pandemic, as Governments in England, Scotland and Wales have also concluded.”

 The full Article 39A can see read: Article 39a Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977