Business Rates relief and exemptions

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

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 £50,999  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 £15,000, the ratepayer will receive a percentage reduction in their rates bill for this property of up to a maximum of 100% for a property with a rateable value of not more than £12,000. 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 £2,899.

The rateable value of the property mentioned in (a), or the aggregate rateable value of all the properties mentioned in (b), must not exceed £19,999 outside London or £27,999 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:

Relief for Local Newspapers

The Government is providing funding to local authorities so that they can provide a discount worth up to £1,500 a year for two years from 1 April 2017, to the office space occupied by local newspapers. This is up to a maximum of one discount per local newspaper title and per hereditament, and up to state aid limits. The relief will be delivered through local authority discretionary discount powers (under section 47(3) of the Local Government Finance Act 1988). Eligibility criteria for this relief if set out in a guidance note: “The case for a business rates relief for local newspapers”, which can be obtained at

Unoccupied Property Rating

Business rates will not be payable in the first three months that a property is empty. This is extended to six months in the case of certain industrial properties. After this period rates are payable in full unless the unoccupied property rate has been reduced by the Government by order. In most cases the unoccupied property rate is zero for properties owned by charities and community amateur sports clubs. In addition, there are a number of exemptions from the unoccupied property rate. The Government has introduced a temporary measure for unoccupied new builds from October 2013. Unoccupied new builds will be exempt from unoccupied property rates for up to 18 months (up to state aid limits) where the property comes on to the list between 1 October 2013 and 30 September 2016. The 18 month period includes the initial 3 or 6 month exemption and so properties may, if unoccupied, be exempt from non-domestic rates for up to an extra 15 or 12 months.

Partly Occupied Property Relief

A ratepayer is liable for the full non-domestic rate whether a property is wholly occupied or only partly occupied. Where a property is partly occupied for a short time, the local authority has discretion in certain cases to award relief in respect of the unoccupied part.

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 100% reduction in the rates bill from April 2017. 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 five 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.


Some properties may be exempt from rating 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

If you believe your property may be exempt form rating, please contact the Valuation Office Agency at