What is Business Rates In England And Wales?

Legal Definition
Business rates is the commonly used name of non-domestic rates, a tax on the occupation of non-domestic property (National Non-Domestic Rates – NNDR). Rates are a property tax with ancient roots that was formerly used to fund local services that was formalised with the Poor Law 1572 and superseded by the Poor Law of 1601. The Local Government Finance Act 1988 introduced business rates in England and Wales from 1990, repealing its immediate predecessor, the General Rate Act 1967. The act also introduced business rates in Scotland, but as an amendment to the existing system which had evolved separately to that in the rest of Great Britain. Since the establishment, in 1997, of a Welsh Assembly Government able to pass secondary legislation, the English and Welsh systems have been able to diverge.

The Local Government Finance Act 1988, with follow-up legislation, provided a fresh administrative framework for assessing and billing, but did not redefine the legal unit of property, the hereditament, that had been developed through rating case law. Properties are assessed in a rating list with a rateable value, a valuation of their annual rental value on a fixed valuation date using assumptions fixed by statute. Rating lists are created and maintained by the Valuation Office Agency, a UK Government Executive Agency. Rating lists can be altered either to reflect changes in properties, or as valuations are appealed against. New rating lists are normally created every five years, however, the 2015 revaluation has been postponed until 2017.

In 2014-15 authorities collected a total of £22.9 billion in business rates, representing 3.53% of the total UK tax income and achieving an average in-year collection rate of 98.1%.

On 1 April 2013 a new system of business rates retention began in England. Before April 2013 all business rate income collected by councils formed a single, national pot, which was then distributed by government in the form of formula grant. Through the Local Government Finance Act 2012, and regulations that followed, the Government gave local authorities the power to keep up to half of business rate income and transfer half of it centrally, to central government. The central share is then distributed to councils in the form of Revenue Support Grant. The other half kept by local authorities are then subjected to tariff, levy, top up and safety payments depending on the financial position of the council. According to the government the change gives financial incentives to councils to grow their local economies and increase their income from business rates. At the same time the new scheme has resulted in more risk and uncertainty.
-- Wikipedia