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Business Rates - Discretionary Rate Relief

The Council has a discretionary power to award relief to charities and other non-profit making organisations. 

Registered charities are entitled to a mandatory rate relief of 80% for properties that are occupied for charitable purposes. The Council has discretionary powers to award further rate relief of up to 20% (this is commonly referred to as ‘top up’ relief).

The Council has the discretion to award relief of up to 100% to organisations which are not established for profit and the property is used for charitable purposes concerned with:

  • education, social welfare, science, literature, the fine arts
  • or used wholly or mainly for recreation by a not for profit club, society or other organisation

Changes to local government finance now mean that the income from business rates more directly impacts on the Council’s financial position. From 1 April 2017 Sefton Council retains approximately 99% of the income collected through Business Rates, of which 1% is handed to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. Under the previous scheme, business rates income was paid into the Government’s central pool and redistributed back out to local authorities based on a formula grant.

99% of the discretionary relief awards come directly from the Council’s own collection fund. Awards are only made after giving careful consideration to the Council’s wider financial position, it’s Council Tax payers, it’s own discretionary rate relief policies, Government guidance and the priorities outlined in the Council’s Corporate Strategy.

Organisations applying for discretionary rate relief should provide evidence to the Council  that all other relevant mandatory or discretionary rate reliefs  available have been applied for/considered (for example, CASC status, small business rate relief, retail rate relief etc.).

Community Amateur Sports Clubs are entitled to the same level of relief as registered charities and are therefore entitled to 80% mandatory relief and can be considered for a further 20% discretionary relief.

If your club has not already achieved CASC status and would like to do so, please contact HM Revenues & Customs directly. Community Amateur Sports Clubs detailed guidance notes can be found below.

The Council has discretion to grant rate relief of up to 100% to certain non-profit making bodies.

Non- profit making organisations for the purposes of awarding discretionary rate relief are

  • Properties where all or part is occupied for the purposes of one or more institutions or other organisations which are not established or conducted for profit and their main objectives are charitable or are otherwise philanthropic or religious or concerned with education, social welfare, science, literature, or the fine arts: or
  • Properties wholly or mainly used for the purposes of recreation, and all or part of it is occupied for the purpose of a club, society or other organisation not established or conducted for profit.

Non-profit making sport clubs can apply for relief from their rates, previously applications were sought on a 5 year cycle, the application process has been brought in line with other discretionary relief applications and considered on an annual basis.

The Council’s approach

Sefton Council recognises that the voluntary and community sector makes a major contribution to the economy, health and well-being of the people who live and work in Sefton.

In considering the exercise of discretion the Council will consider each application for relief based on it’s own merits, on a case by case basis. The following matters will be taken into consideration (list is not exhaustive):

  • The main objectives of the organisation/sports club
  • How the organisation supports and links into the Council’s corporate vision and priorities;
  • The use of the property and how that use links to objectives of the organisation/voluntary sector sport.
  • Whether the facilities provided include education and/or training for members as a whole or for special groups;
  • Any membership and fee structure and whether the facilities are accessible to all Sefton residents, including whether there are concessions for certain groups, for example people on a low income or young people under 18;
  • If covered by a membership scheme, membership numbers and the number and percentage of these members that are Sefton residents;
  • If the organisation has due regard to equality issues and if its facilities are used by all members of the community
  • Whether the organisation/sports club is a local or national organisation and support available from national organisation if appropriate
  • The impact of not granting relief on the organisation/sports club  and the local community
  • Number of people that use the service/facilities and the percentage that are residents of Sefton
  • An outline of how the organisation/sports club contributes to the local area and if appropriate the extent to which the facilities provided reduces the demand for Council services or produces savings for the Council.
  • Details of any other relief or support received including that provided by Sefton Council
  • Details of other organisations/sports clubs in the area providing a similar service.
  • The amount of relief requested.

We will also consider additional financial and other information provided in support of the application including

  • How the organisation/sports club is financed
  • If the organisation runs a bar or food provision, the level of income from this activity and how this money is used
  • Whether the organisation operates at a local or national level and where appropriate, the local and national funding streams and financial position of the organisation.
  • Details of fund raising activities undertaken by the organisation/sports club
  • The past three years' audited accounts, or, in the case of a new organisation/sports club, an estimate of annual income and expenditure and cash flow forecast for a minimum of the next twelve months:
  • Statement(s) of the Council’s Specialist Business Advisor and/ or Health & Well Being Service Officer

We may also arrange for one of our inspectors to visit the property.

State Aid

Each application for discretionary relief is considered on its merits in accordance with government guidelines and European Union requirements with regard to State Aid de minimis limits. State aid rules limits any business to €200,000 of aid over a rolling three year period, further guidance on state aid can be found below.

At the end of the application process applicants are required to complete a State Aid declaration confirming whether they have received any other De Minimis State Aid, which might include for example Retail Relief and to confirm that the award of the Discretionary Relief would not cause the ratepayer to exceed the €200,000 of State Aid an undertaking can receive under the De Minimis Regulations EC 1407/2013.

To apply please complete the online discretionary relief application form below.

An application will only be considered when you have fully completed the form and provided all required supporting information and evidence.

Please ensure that you have read all the notes on Discretionary Relief before beginning the online form.

Please note whilst your application is being processed, your current rates are due and payable in accordance with your latest rate demand.

If the organisation/sports club is facing exceptional financial difficulties, please contact the Business Rates team for further advice.

Once a decision has been made we will write to you to confirm this. If relief is awarded an amended rates demand will be issued with new payment instructions. This will take account of any payments you have already made; any overpayment may be refunded, credited to any other amounts due to the Council or to future rate bills.

The online form clearly details the information required to support your application. If this information is not provided within 21 days of applying online your application will be considered withdrawn.

Any application must be submitted and determined by the Council no later than 6 months after the end of the financial year to which it relates.

FRAUD WARNING: If you knowingly submit a form and it is found to be false, you could be subject to prosecution.

You must notify Sefton Council immediately if there are any changes in circumstances that may affect a discount or a relief.

To support your rate relief application you will be contacted by the Council’s Specialist Business advisor and/ or an Officer from the Health and Wellbeing Service.

Further advice and help for businesses is available from Invest Sefton, who can be contacted via the related links section at the bottom of this page.

If you require further information or assistance regarding a discretionary rate relief application please contact the Business Rates Team on 0151 934 4387 or for Sport Clubs contact Tina Pilkington, Senior Development Manager on 0151 934 2838.

If you feel that the rateable value of the property is incorrect you can appeal at any time directly to the valuation office. Details of how to do this can be found in the 'How do I appeal?' section on the rateable value page of this website.


Please Note: There is no stated time limit for applications to be made in respect of discretionary relief, however Sefton Council must determine applications within six months after the end of the financial year for which the application for relief is made. Determinations made after this time are invalid.
Business rate payers should apply as early as possible in the year for which you wish to claim relief.
There is no statutory right of appeal against a decision regarding discretionary relief made by Sefton Council. However ratepayers can request to have a decision reviewed if they are dissatisfied with the outcome. Any further determination as result of a review will only be valid if it can be made within 6 months after the end of the financial year that the original application refers to.

Last Updated on Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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