17 February 2020 | Comment | Article by Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu
On 31 January 2020, the Welsh Government issued a consultation on the eligibility of schools and hospitals in Wales for charitable rates relief. This consultation follows the introduction into the Scottish Parliament of a Bill that includes a provision to remove charitable relief for mainstream independent schools.
At the moment, mandatory relief from business rates is available for occupied premises where the ratepayer is a charity, or the trustees for a charity, and the premises are wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes (whether of that charity or of that and other charities). The relief provides over £60 million of support in Wales, reducing bills by 80% for eligible ratepayers. Local authorities have power to provide discretionary relief to top up the remaining 20%, in whole or part. Charitable rates relief is the largest relief claimed by charities.
To put this in context, there are approximately 120,000 non-domestic properties in Wales, contributing around £1 billion in revenue each year.
The consultation is seeking views on:
- Whether or not the following bodies should be eligible for charitable relief:
- Independent and private schools;
- Maintained and public sector schools; and
- Private and public hospitals;
by contributing to the cost of local services by paying rates on the properties they occupy, as other service providers do.
- The potential effects of making any changes to the level of charitable relief provided.
- Any exemptions, if the Welsh Government were to change current eligibility for charitable relief.
The consultation document says that there is "no indication of intentions" to change eligibility for charitable rates relief in England or Northern Ireland.
No doubt though, charitable independent and private schools, as well as private hospitals throughout the UK will follow these developments with some anxiety.
The Welsh consultation closes on 24 April 2020: there is still plenty of time for those likely to be impacted to voice their views.