Tax relief snub hits business


One of Birmingham’s leading property professionals has accused the Government of snubbing the industry after only offering exemption on empty properties with a rateable value below £15,000.

Mark Swallow, head of Knight Frank in the city, said property-owners were becoming increasingly desperate by the lack of tax relief and this new measure would do nothing to alleviate suffering.

He said: “The Chancellor snubbed the property industry this afternoon. The report’s objective was to generate a fiscal stimulus to help our ailing economy and hopefully avoid a full-blown recession. However, by refusing to repeal the empty rates, businesses will be faced with reduced supply of commercial property when the economy recovers.”

Bob Tattrie, managing partner at Trebor Developments LLP, mirrored Mr Swallow’s sentiments. “The Government’s Pre-Budget announcement falls far short for the development and construction industry and is unlikely to offer any major development boost, with the exception of public sector development,” he said.

Ian Hyde, partner in the tax team at Pinsent Masons, said property owners could continue to take matters into their own hands. He said: “The property companies, developers, retailers and corporate occupiers with valuable assets and large portfolios will continue to suffer. If further lobbying does not result in the abolition of this tax we are likely to see an increase in constructive vandalism that could end up blighting valuable commercial property which will be needed as and when the economy improves.”

Mark Radford, head of Jones Lang LaSalle’s Rating team in the regions, said of the changes: “This is particularly brought into sharp focus for ratepayers in the north of England whose neighbours across the border in Scotland do not face these punitive charges.”

Tim Haywood, finance director at St. Modwen, a company seriously affected by lack of tax relief, said: “It will not stop the demolition of empty commercial buildings which, in turn, is preventing companies from taking advantage of less expensive, second-hand business space - a priority for some in the economic climate.”

Worcestershire property consultant John Truslove added his voice, saying: “His proposals on help for the staggered payment of backdated business rate bills are Heath Robinson at best and much too complicated for businesses to administer.”

Mike Flecknoe, rating director at Atisreal in Birmingham, said: “We also have to look at the bigger economic recovery picture and bigger businesses also need relief. We need to remove this hurdle to recovery full-stop - if we start to turn the corner and there is an absence of buildings because so many have been demolished we’ll have a huge problem.”

However, Jonathan Wallis, director of Miller Developments said: “The change is not as comprehensive as hoped, particularly considering the several months of hard lobbying from across the industry. This is, however, great news for smaller businesses.”

Simon Gibbs, a director of chartered surveyors Bigwood, with offices in Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon, said of the move on empty property relief. “This will be of significant benefit to small businesses and is to be welcomed even if it is only short-term relief.”