Northern Ireland release business rate relief updates

Northern Ireland is the last of the four UK nations to publish additional information on the business rates’ relief extension for the new financial year.

With less than three weeks to go to that crucial deadline, the Northern Ireland Executive announced that the business rates’ holiday is being extended for a further 12 months. This brings it in line with Scotland and Wales. England has opted for a three-month extension.

The rates’ holiday will be applied automatically and businesses can choose to opt out, if they wish, potentially winning them a public relations bonus instead. This avenue has already been used by some big-name retailers which have seen huge increases in sales during the Pandemic.

For the second year running, Northern Ireland businesses in the following sectors will pay no rates for the  2021-22 financial year:

  • Airports (Belfast City, Belfast International and City of Derry);
  • Childcare;
  • Hospitality, tourism and leisure;
  • Manufacturing;
  • Newspaper production; and
  • Retail (excluding larger food stores with over 500 sq m of retail space and off-licences).

Back in England, additional guidance has now been issued on the Expanded Retail Discount that will apply in 2021/22 at 100% for three months (April 1–June 30, 2021) with 66% for the remaining period (July 1-March 31, 2022).

It now confirms that the measure is for 2021/22 only and local authorities can adopt a local scheme with discretionary powers for ad hoc cases.

There is a cash cap of £2 million that applies to ‘closed’ businesses and £105,000 for ‘open’ businesses. Again, ratepayers can refuse to take the discount. The cash caps do not apply between April 1-June 30, 2021 and no ratepayer can exceed the £2million cash cap across all of their hereditaments in England.s

The discount is applicable to occupied hereditaments wholly or mainly used:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues;
  • for assembly and leisure;
  • as hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation

The use of the hereditament is crucial and must be used for visiting members of the public whether for the sale of goods, food/drink or the provision of sport, leisure and facilities.

Certain services are not eligible, even if they attract visiting members of the public, such as  financial services (banks), medical services (doctors, dentists), professional services (solicitors, accountants) or those not reasonably accessible.

Guidance notes are here: Expanded Retail Discount