Retailers could lose out on £496m refund as ATM ruling is appealed

Supermarkets could miss out on a £496m rebate now that an appeal has been lodged by the the government’s Valuation Office Agency to overturn a ruling concerning business rates and ATM machines.

In November the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of retailers, saying ATMs located both inside and outside of stores should not be assessed for additional business rates.

This overturned the ruling of the Upper Tribunal in January 2017 that made a distinction between ATMs inside a building and outside and said the sites of ATMs located within premises should not be assessed for business rates, but those ATM sites outside a shop or store should. The supermarkets affected include Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Co-op.

Real estate firm Colliers International has branded the appeal as a “costly mistake” that could result in a further two-year delay before the resolution of the case – if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal. The rate payers (supermarkets) have 14 days to oppose this application but Colliers predicted the Supreme Court was likely to take up to June 2019 to consider whether an appeal can proceed.

At the time of the hearing, Colliers estimated around £500m was at stake as each ATM site would have attracted an average rates liability of around £4,000. As the Appellants were successful, the refunds due to the supermarkets were expected to be around £496m.

John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers International, said: “Not only is this an enormous waste of taxpayers’ money, but it will snatch away from hard pressed retailers the much needed refunds they have been waiting for. If the appeal proceeds it will effectively paralyse the 2017 Rating List for food store operators and their concessions since the decision is unlikely to be given before the end of the 2017 Rating List in 2021.

“This is one of the most destructive and cavalier actions to retail jobs and public finance ever taken by public servants. It’s just breathtaking. If anyone needed evidence that the government isn’t listening to retail concerns – this action illustrates it.”

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