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Reliefs and exemptions


The Council has the discretion to award relief to charities and other non-profit making organisations.

A non-profit organisation is an organisation that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals rather than distributing them as profit or dividends.

Charitable organisations, charity shops and registered community amateur sports clubs (CASC’s) already receiving 80% Mandatory relief can apply for further discretionary rate relief on the remaining 20% of the business rates charge.

It is important to note that the Council decides whether relief should be awarded on the circumstances of each application. There is no automatic right to receive relief.

Further information and details on how to make an application can be found on the discretionary rate relief page of this website.

When a property becomes vacant it is exempt from business rates for three months except certain industrial properties which are exempt for six months. At the end of the rate-free period, rates are payable at 100% charge. Empty rate continues to be payable until somebody occupies the property.

It is important to note that the rate-free period applies to the property only. Therefore, if you purchase an empty property you will be immediately liable for empty rates if it has been vacant for more than the rate free period prior to you buying it.

Further information can be found on the empty property rate relief page of this website.

In very exceptional circumstances the Council can use its discretion to award a reduction in your business rates demand on the grounds of hardship. It is important to note that when deciding whether to award relief, the Council takes many factors into account. It is not sufficient that your business is not profitable.

Further information can be found on the hardship relief page of this website.

Charities or trustees of a charity are entitled to an 80% reduction in their business rates if the property they occupy is wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes.

An organisation that is not registered as a charity may also claim this relief provided it has similar charitable aims.

Further information can be found on the mandatory charity relief page of this website.

From 1 April 2017 the Government is providing funding to local authorities so that they can provide a discount worth £1,500 in year 2017/18 and 2018/19 for 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 Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on 29th October 2018 at the Autumn Budget that the £1,500 business rates discount for office space occupied by local newspapers would be extended to 2019-2020, this has been further extended for an additional 5 years until March 2025.

The relief is to be specifically for local newspapers, what would be considered to be a “traditional local newspaper.” The relief will not be available to magazines.

To qualify the property must be occupied by a local newspaper and wholly or mainly used as office premises for journalists and reporters.

The amount of relief is limited to a maximum of one discount per newspaper title and per property.

Please contact the business rates team on 0151 934 4360 or by email business.rates@sefton.gov.uk  if you wish to make an application.

The award of this discount is considered to amount to state aid. However, it will be state aid compliant where it is provided in accordance with the De Minimus Regulations EC 1407/2013. The De Minimus Regulations allow an undertaking to receive up to €200,000 'de minimus' aid over a rolling three year period. As part of the application process ratepayers are required to complete and return a state aid declaration confirming whether they have received any other De Minimis State Aid and to confirm that the award of the relief for local newspapers would not cause the ratepayer to exceed the €200,000 of state aid an undertaking can receive under the De Minimis Regulations. Further information on state aid can be found on the related links area of this page.

If your property is only partly occupied, the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) may be able to value the occupied and unoccupied parts of the property separately. The unoccupied part would then be eligible for empty property rate relief.

If the VOA is unable to value the parts separately and the property is to remain partly occupied for a short period of time only, you may be eligible to claim section 44a part occupied relief. 

Further information can be found on the part occupied relief page of this website.

The Government has provided Councils with guidance to provide a discretionary relief scheme for businesses with effect from 1st April 2023. The Council has determined that, in accordance with that guidance, businesses may qualify for a discount in the following categories:

  • shop
  • restaurant, café, bar, or pub
  • cinema or music venue
  • hospitality or leisure business - for example, a gym, a spa, a casino, or a hotel

Further information can be found on the Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Relief Scheme page of this website.

Certain types of properties in a rural settlement with a population below 3,000 may be entitled to relief. The property must be the only general store, the only post office or a food shop and have a rateable value of less than £8,500, or the only public house or the only petrol station and have a rateable value of less than £12,500. The property has to be occupied.

From 1st April 2017 an eligible ratepayer is entitled to relief at 100% (previously 50%) of the full charge

Further information can be found on the rural rate relief page of this website.

The Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) scheme is designed to help small businesses reduce their Business Rate demand.

From 1st April 2017 ratepayers who are not entitled to another mandatory relief and who occupy a single property with a rateable value of up to £15,000 are eligible for Small Business Rate Relief. In certain circumstances ratepayers who occupy more than one property may also be eligible for Small Business Rate Relief, although relief will only be applied to the main property.

Businesses which received small business rates relief in 20016/2017 and continue to meet the conditions which apply at the time of the 2017 revaluation will continue to receive small business rates relief automatically. The requirement to notify their billing authority if they are no longer eligible for relief will continue to apply.

The relief does not apply to empty properties.

Further information can be found on the small business rate relief page of this website.

The new statutory subsidy control regime replaced EU state aid rules, which applied in the UK until the end of the transition period in December 2020.

Further information can be found on the subsidy control page of this website.

The Supporting Small Business Rate Relief scheme is designed to help small businesses facing an increase in their rate bills following the 2023 revaluation.

Further information can be found on the supporting small business rate relief page on this website.

From the 1 April 2023 the government have put into place a transitional relief scheme to limit and phase in increases in rate bills as a result of the 2023 revaluation.

The scheme does not apply to those in downward transition to lower bills; they will fall to their full bill on 1 April 2023.

Transitional relief is applied automatically and is shown on the front of your rate demand.

Further information on the new scheme can be found on the Transitional Relief Scheme page on this website.

The Government has launched the COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF) to support those businesses affected by the pandemic who are ineligible for previous related COVID 19 reliefs in the 2021/22 financial year.

The fund replaces the right to request a reduction in business rates from the Valuation Office Agency on the grounds that COVID-19 has been a material change in circumstances which makes the rateable value of the property inaccurate.

On 7 April 2022 the Council agreed the adoption of a COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund Policy. CARF is a relief awarded at the discretion of the Council. The full policy document can be found here.

Who is eligible?

A business must have a business rates charge to pay for the whole of the financial year in 2021/22 (after other relief have been applied) and:

  • Have not been awarded (or be eligible for) the Expanded Retail Discount (covering Retail, Hospitality and Leisure) and Nursery Discount for the period 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022
  • Have been in continuous occupation of the premises from the 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022 unless required to close under COVID restrictions. For the purposes of this scheme, intermittent occupations of 6 weeks will not be considered as being in continuous occupation.
  • Can evidently demonstrate that they have been adversely affected by the pandemic by demonstrating a loss of turnover and be able to provide that evidence if requested.
  • Have not exceeded the subsidy control limits. Further information can be found on the subsidy allowance page on this website.

Who is not eligible?

  • Businesses that do not have a charge to pay in the 2021/22 financial year
  • Businesses in receipt of, (or eligible for), the Expanded Retail Discount and the Nursery Discount
  • Businesses that do not have a charge to pay due to the awarding of other reliefs, e.g. small business rates relief, charitable relief, discretionary relief etc.
  • Businesses that are not in occupation (or are in intermittent occupation) in the 2021/22 financial year
  • Businesses who have already received the maximum permitted subsidy allowances
  • Businesses that are in administration, insolvent or where a striking-off notice has been made

In addition to the above, Sefton Council will not consider the following businesses as eligible for an award:

  • Hereditaments which do not have employees directly working at them. (For example, advertising rights, communications stations, electronic lockers, energy generation and distribution networks).
  • Public sector organisations and other bodies directly funded by government grants, including education and health related sectors.
  • Schools and Colleges
  • Logistic warehouses used by food, online or other retailers which have not been adversely affected by the pandemic.
  • Businesses that predominantly provide online sales or services prior to the pandemic.
  • Financial services (e.g. banks, building societies, cash points, bureau de change, payday lenders, betting shops, pawn brokers)
  • Other services (e.g. estate agents, letting agents,)
  • Medical services (e.g. vets, dentists, doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors)
  • Professional services (e.g. solicitors, accountants, insurance agents / financial advisers,)
  • Premises used for personal usage or storage.
  • Car parking spaces related to office accommodation.
  • Those businesses which only supply storage facilities such as warehouses.


Businesses will need to complete an online application form to be eligible for relief.

The information that will be requested in the form will include the following:

  • The name of the business rate payer
  • The business address
  • Account and Property Reference as shown on your bill.
  • Business use of the property
  • Manufacturing & Supply Chain business to provide detail of products provided.
  • Company Number (where the ratepayer is a Limited company registered with Companies House)
  • Rateable value of the business
  • Number of employees at the premises for which the application is being made
  • Percentage decline in turnover within the April 2020 to March 2021 period, compared to the same 2019 to 2020 period
  • A declaration that the award of relief will not result in a breach of Subsidy Control thresholds

Businesses may be requested to provide evidence in support of the application including evidence loss of turnover.

Business intending to apply for this relief should be prepared to provide evidence of their eligibility immediately on request. This will include copies of accounts prior to the start of the pandemic in March 2020, and at least one year’s accounts in a subsequent year. We may also require an accountants letter for which a template will be provided.

Complete an online application here

Please note that the application window will close on 31 August 2022. A decision as to whether you are eligible for this relief will not be made until after 31 August 2022.

Funding and Awards

The amount of Government funding for this relief is £4,447,663. The amount of relief to be awarded to successful applicants will be determined once the application window has closed. Each case will be treated on its own merits with consideration to the number of applications received during the application window, the business type, the financial adverse impact of Covid in 2021-22 when compared to non-Covid years, and the maximum funding allocation limit.

More detail of potential awards can be found in the policy document.

Relief from Business Rates

Section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 as amended by Section 69 of the Localism Act 2011 gives the Council a general power having given consideration to the interest of local Council Taxpayers, to award rate relief to any ratepayer. Each case is considered on its own merits and the Council will consider the implications for the economic gain to the Council over the medium term, including business rate income, social value arising from creation of employment and community gain.


Changes in Circumstances

It is important that you tell us about any change in your circumstances that affects your liability to pay rates. This would include:

  • A change of address to which your mail is to be sent
  • Changes in the leaseholder/owner of a property
  • Change in the occupier of the property
  • If you vacate the property
  • Any change that may affect your entitlement to any rate relief granted
  • Any change of use to the property, e.g shop to wine bar

Contact us on 0151 934 4360. If you fail to tell us about such changes, it may result in you being overcharged rates or being sent a large retrospective demand.

Last Updated on Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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