VOA chasing business rates off a cliff

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

This latest High Court ruling probably won’t have a huge impact on North West sunseekers but it did make me ask the question how far is the VOA prepared to go these days on clawing back business rates?

Apparently, owners of beach huts on a popular Torquay beach are now going to be charged business rates after a recent High Court decision involving the VOA. People who own beach huts on Meadfoot Beach will be charged these new business rates of more than £500 on top of their rents. Having never personally owned a beach hut I don’t know their worth but I understand they can be pretty pricey depending on the location.

This latest tax grab centres around a new classification of buildings which means these humble but sought-after beach huts are now applicable. This is due to an assessment that says if buildings are sub-divided internally and occupied by different people they will now be charged business rates. The fact that they are not business is irrelevant in this particular case.

The local authority says the owners may well be able to claim back the business rates or apply for exemptions but we all know this could be a real headache for people who just wanted to somewhere to store their windbreakers.

This specific beach affects around 1300 people in Torbay, according to the Local Authority, but I assume this situation could be replicated across seaside resorts across the country.

As one local Torbay councillor put it: “The process of exemption from the rates will be tiresome. It will involve a lot of jumping through hoops, but at the end of the day the majority of people will get their rates back. It will be tiresome for the council too, who will receive dozens of new applications for this exemption.”

So, beach huts are now on the VOA radar, but how much more revenue will this actually raise if the majority of the owners claim SBRR? Perhaps someone has been out in the sun too much if they think this is a good way to raise significant tax revenue.