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Government widens business rates reliefs but leaves out estate agency branches

Despite pleas from one MP on Tuesday to include estate agents within the proposed Coronavirus relief programme, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has decided to leave the industry in the cold.

Nigel Lewis

business rates

The government has specifically omitted estate agents from a list of high street premises to be included within its widened range of business rates relief measures announced late yesterday in response to the Coronavirus threat.

Hundreds of thousands of high street premises will be given extra help to pay their rates with an expanded retail discount of up to 100%.

This will be made possible through central government funding of the extra reliefs which are to be agreed locally by councils for their high street businesses, rather than via changes to business rates legislation.

But estate agents hoping the government might understand the pressures their businesses are under will be disappointed.

Almost every type of high street premises is included within the scheme from bakers to supermarket and even second hand car lots, caravan showrooms, tanning shops and, somewhat perversely, holiday homes.

Excluded

But the details of the guidance reveal that the government is specifically excluding estate agents from the rates relief programme, including lettings agents.

The property industry is lumped in with banks, building societies, medical services such as vets and dentists, solicitors, accountants, post offices and casinos.

The omission comes despite a plea on Tuesday during Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s economic update to parliament.

During the lively debate, Conservative MP for Witney, Robert Courts, said: “Will the Chancellor please… look at A2 properties, which do not currently receive business rates relief, and see whether some of those businesses—such as estate agents on the high streets – can be helped?”.

Read more about the business rates programme.

Read the business rates relief document in full.

March 19, 2020

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