Rural diversity is reflected in rates bills

Increasing diversity among rural businesses is adding to the complications for property owners when it comes to rates on their premises.

Those businesses involved in traditional agricultural activity were largely unaffected by this year’s revaluation, but some who have turned farm assets to other use have been hit hard, and they may be losing out in other ways.

Adrian Smith, founder of AS Rating, said: “Some commercial uses for agricultural properties have attracted big rates increases, and where people have seen reductions these are often phased in with the result that you have to wait years to receive the full benefit.

“The rates are based on the rental value and, as you would expect in an area of great variety among businesses, there are some big differences between the final figures.”

Adrian explained that agricultural exemption from business rates applies where a property is used purely for agricultural work. But you can lose that if you are storing grain for someone else, if you use your engineering equipment to do work for someone who is not involved in agriculture or if you turn over your farm to other commercial use such as a farm shop.

He said: “There has been change of use to create facilities such as garden centres, and there are many other sectors including various aspects of the motor trade, electrical engineers, offices including professional services, because even if the main business in an area is agriculture it needs support from others.

“If rates are low, the fact that they reflect rents indicates you are already facing the challenge of trying to run your business in a relatively poor area.

“If you’ve seen a large reduction, the effect of transitional rate relief means you could be paying more than the fair amount for up to five years or until the next revaluation.”