How to design the best discretionary business rates relief scheme

discretionary business rates reliefFollowing this year’s Spring budget the government announced the launch of a £300m discretionary business rates relief fund spanning the next four years, to support those businesses facing the steepest hikes in business rates bills as a result of the 2017 revaluation.

The first year (2017-18) will see the release of the largest chunk of funding, with £175m being shared initially across authorities. In order to meet needs at a localised level each billing authority will be expected to develop their own discretionary relief schemes to deliver targeted support to the most hard-pressed ratepayers.

Balancing mandatory elements of the scheme
This is no easy task and can involve trawling through reams of data to try and develop key criteria that will dictate how the scheme will work in a fair and reasonable way and deliver the best outcomes for the region. Coupled with this, authorities will need to balance this against mandatory elements of the scheme, such as relief for pubs with a rateable value below £100,000 and 100% relief for sole post offices, general stores, pubs or petrol stations in rural settlements.

Using technology to design your scheme
Consultation on the relief scheme acknowledges that it will take time to implement more complex elements of the scheme in future and this may require software changes, but these need not come at huge expense. Technology is out there doing some of this work already, taking data sets from multiple sources and systems and presenting it back in a consolidated view. This means that the data can be effectively profiled and modelled to best suit the relief you want to offer rate-payers. Taking this approach means that localised schemes can be developed with a bit of thought and intelligence behind them.

Profiling Business Rate payers
Business rate payers can be profiled and sorted by area/parish/ward to identify who they are and what rateable value exists in a given area. If you want to be really clever you can even pull in credit data related to those businesses to identify the health, wealth and trading status of the business for more fairer allocations on relief. Using this approach you can effectively localise and design your scheme in a way that brings most benefit to the area focusing on customised criteria that suits your objectives, whether that’s high street regeneration or attracting new business.

Using data intelligence you can develop schemes that target properties in the less affluent areas of a district if it supports your objectives. Similarly you can use technology to identify new rate-payers that have come to the area, this may prove particularly useful if you decide you want to incentivise them to invest in a longer term commitment to the district. The key point here is that the more information you have about your rate-payers the more informed decisions you can make about how you help them.

Knowledge is power and if you can breakdown your business rate-payers by industry sector, you can start looking at trends over time to identify if a particular group are in decline or are ‘at risk’ and take a more proactive approach with the relief you can offer. If you can cross reference business rates information with data on the number of local staff employed by that organisation, this starts to become quite a powerful tool, helping you to better assist those organisations who support local interests.

We are already working with a number of local authorities, providing access to a web based portal which allows them to view consolidated data from a number of different sources, both internally and externally. Used in the right way it will give them a head start when it comes to designing a discretionary business rates relief scheme that’s works for them and their rate payers.

If you want more information on how our technology gives you more control when it comes to designing a discretionary business rates relief scheme contact us now on 01772 842092 or email

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