Business Rates relief and exemptions

If your business qualifies for a relief or exemption, you may be able to reduce the amount you pay in Business Rates.


Some properties may be exempt from ratings and will not be included in the rating list that is maintained by the Valuation Office.

These include:

  • places of religious worship
  • church halls and similar buildings
  • agricultural land
  • agricultural buildings
  • fish farms
  • property used for the disabled
  • property in enterprise zones
  • parks, recreation grounds, pleasure grounds and highways
  • lighthouses, buoys and beacons
  • sewers, pumping stations and accessories
  • property of the drainage authority
  • swinging moorings
  • election meeting rooms and polling stations
  • livestock buildings

Charity and discretionary relief

Charities are entitled to 80% mandatory relief where the property is occupied by the charity and the property is wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes. Charities are entitled to 90% relief where the ratepayer is a charity and the property is unoccupied but it appears that when next in use the property will be wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes.

Harlow Council has discretion to give further relief on the remaining bill. Harlow Council also has discretion to give relief on all or part of any rate bill for property occupied by certain non-profit making bodies, and can also consider giving rate relief in cases of hardship or where part of a property is beyond use for a certain period.

You can read more about discretionary relief in the Discretionary Relief Policy (pdf)

To claim charity and discretionary relief you will need to complete and sign an application form by either:

Community amateur sports club relief

Community amateur sports club relief is based on the charity relief details as above. However, the sports club must be registered as a Community Amateur Sports Club with the Inland Revenue.

Small business rates relief

Ratepayers who are not entitled to another mandatory relief or are liable for unoccupied property rates and occupy a property with a rateable value which does not exceed £17,999 outside London or £25,499 in London will have their bill calculated using the lower small business non-domestic rating multiplier, rather than the national non-domestic rating multiplier.

In addition, generally, if the sole or main property is shown on the rating list with a rateable value which does not exceed £12,000, the ratepayer will receive a percentage reduction in their rates bill for this property of up to a maximum of 50% for a property with a rateable value of not more than £6,000. The Government has announced, in the Autumn Statement 2015, that the doubling of the usual level of relief - to a maximum of 100% - will continue for a further year, until 31 March 2017.

This percentage reduction (relief) is only available to ratepayers who occupy either:

(a) one property, or

(b) one main property and other additional properties providing those additional properties each have a rateable value which does not exceed £2,599.

The rateable value of the property mentioned in (a), or the aggregate rateable value of all the properties mentioned in (b), must not exceed £17,999 outside London or £25,499 in London on each day for which relief is being sought. If the rateable value, or aggregate rateable value, increases above those levels, relief will cease from the day of the increase. However, the Government has introduced additional support to small businesses. For those businesses that take on an additional property which would normally have meant the loss of small business rate relief, the Government has confirmed that they will be allowed to keep that relief for a period of 12 months.

Where a ratepayer meets the eligibility criteria and has not received the relief they should get in touch with Contact Harlow. Provided the ratepayer continues to satisfy the conditions for relief which apply at the relevant time as regards the property and the ratepayer, they will automatically continue to receive relief in each new valuation period.

Certain changes in circumstances will need to be notified to Harlow Council by a ratepayer who is in receipt of relief (other changes will be picked up by Harlow Council). The changes which should be notified are:

(a) the ratepayer taking up occupation of an additional property, and

(b) an increase in the rateable value of a property occupied by the ratepayer in an area other than the area of Harlow Council which granted the relief.

To claim small business relief you will need to complete and sign an application form by either:

Retail discounts

The Government is giving funding to local authorities so that they can provide a discount worth up to £1,000 a year in 2014-15 and up to £1,500 in 2015-16, to retail premises with a rateable value of up to £50,000. This will provide support to premises including pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops. Details of the relief are set out in the Retail Business Rate Relief Policy (pdf)

If you think you may qualify and the relief is not shown on your 2014-15 and 2015-16 bills, please notify Contact Harlow.

The Government is also giving funding to local authorities so that they can provide a 50% discount for 18 months for those businesses that move into retail premises that have been empty for a year or more. This is available for businesses which move into empty premises between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2016. Full details can be obtained from Contact Harlow.

The award of such discounts is considered likely to amount to state aid. However it will be state aid compliant where it is provided in accordance with the De Minimis Regulations EC 1407/2013. The De Minimis Regulations allow an undertaking to receive up to €200,000 ‘de minimis’ aid over a rolling three year period. If you are receiving, or have received, any ‘de minimis’ aid granted during the current or two previous financial years (from any source), you should inform Contact Harlow immediately with details of the aid received.

Transitional relief

Property values normally change a good deal between each revaluation. Transitional arrangements help to phase in the effects of these changes by limiting the amount by which a bill may rise following a revaluation. To help pay for the limits on increases in bills after a revaluation, there also have to be limits on reductions in bills. Under the transition scheme, limits continue to apply to yearly increases and decreases until the full amount if due (rateable value times the multiplier). The scheme applies only to the bill based on a property at the time of revaluation. If there are any changes to the property after the revaluation date, transitional arrangements will not normally apply to the part of a bill that applies to any increase in rateable value due to those changes.

The transitional relief scheme ended on 31 March 2015.

Local Discretionary Transitional Relief

Authorities have the power to grant discretionary transitional relief to properties with a rateable value up to and including £50,000 who would have received transitional relief in 2015/16 or 2016/17 had the existing transitional relief scheme continued in its current format. 

The Local Discretionary Transitional Relief (pdf) provides detail about the operation and delivery of the policy. The policy will apply to transitional relief awarded for the financial years beginning on 1 April 2015 and 1 April 2016, and ending on 31 March 2016 and 31 March 2017 respectively. 

Business Rate relief for new, non-agricultural business on previously agricultural land or buildings

Rate relief is available for businesses with rateable value of up to £6,000, where the business is set up on previously agricultural land or buildings. Subject to certain conditions, the business will get a 50% reduction in the rates bill for up to five years. Local councils have discretion to give further relief on the remaining bill on such property. Please note that Harlow is not a designated rural area and therefore Rural Rate relief is not available.

Business Rate relief for Harlow Enterprise Zone

Harlow Council will grant a business rate relief to occupiers of non-domestic properties located within the Harlow Enterprise Zone in certain circumstances. 

Businesses that occupy property in the Harlow Enterprise Zone may eligible for a discretionary relief of up to 100% of the business rates payable, up to a limit of £55,000 per year and a maximum of £275,000 in any 5 year period subject to meeting the criteria set out within the Enterprise Zone Business Rates Relief Policy (pdf). This will be subject to State Aid limits.

To claim Harlow Enterprise Zone Business Rates relief you will need to complete and sign an application form by either:

What happens after you claim a relief

If you have been given a relief on your bill the Council will contact you annually to request a new application or check that your circumstances remain the same. If you do not return the form your relief may be cancelled.