Discretionary and Hardship Rate Relief Guidelines

Please read our information on how we are supporting residents and businesses, as well as information on affected services.


1. Introduction

Cornwall Council recognises that the voluntary and community sector makes a major contribution to the economy, health and wellbeing of the people who live and work in Cornwall.  The Discretionary Rate Relief granted by Cornwall Council is paid for by the Council Tax payers therefore we have a duty to ensure that public funds are spent wisely and there is due transparency and accountability. 

These Discretionary rate relief guidelines take into account the original intention of the legislation, which is

  • to support charities and non-profit making organisations in their work in the local community and
  • to help and support the Council’s corporate objectives. 

The guidelines also take into account the principles of Cornwall Council’s budget strategy, which includes

  • to protect service levels for universal services,
  • protect vulnerable people wherever possible and
  • to continue to achieve a high level of savings and efficiencies from reorganising the Council and
  • restructuring services in order to protect front line services.

The main aims are for the Discretionary rate relief guidelines to be: -

  • Consistent and fair.
  • Clear and understandable for both ratepayers and personnel administering rate relief.
  • In the best interests of the people in Cornwall.

The application is designed to ensure fairness. In carrying out the application we will not be influenced by ethnic origin, race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.  In processing applications those involved will be treated fairly, with respect and courteously at all times.

2. Types of relief

There are two types of business rate relief – Mandatory and Discretionary. 

We can grant Mandatory rate relief to the following categories:

  • Registered charities.
  • Village Post Offices, general stores, specialist food shops, public houses and petrol filling stations – where they are in a designated rural settlement.
  • Registered Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs).

We can grant Discretionary rate relief as follows:

  • To make a further award on top of Mandatory relief to those categories listed above; and also:
  • In respect of sports grounds and clubs;
  • To other non-profit making organisations;
  • To other rural businesses situated within a designated rural settlement.

3. Cost of relief

The cost of relief is currently borne jointly by Central Government and the Council as shown:

Relief type Central Govt cost Cornwall Council cost

Mandatory

50% of any Mandatory award

50% of any Mandatory award

Discretionary granted to top up Mandatory

50% of any Discretionary award

50% of any Discretionary award

Discretionary only (no Mandatory)

50% of any Discretionary award

50% of any Discretionary award

4. Guidelines for Discretionary rate relief

Cornwall Council asks an organisation to meet criteria at all three levels shown below:

Level 1

Is the rate-paying organisation:-

  • a charity registered with the Charity Commission;
  • a Not-for-profit organisation;
  • a rural business situated within a designated rural settlement; or
  • a human lifesaving/rescue organisation

If none of the above, the organisation will not normally be considered for Discretionary rate relief.

Level 2

Charities

Where an organisation is a charity registered and the property is wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes, 80% Mandatory relief will be granted.  We can increase the level of relief by allowing discretionary relief up to a further 20%.  

All the following conditions are normally required to be met:

  • The rate-paying organisation’s (or its local branch’s) services or facilities should be primarily for the benefit of the local community in Cornwall.
  • The property should be wholly or mainly used for the organisation’s charitable purposes.
  • The principles of open access and provision of facilities should be demonstrated in the application (see note below*2).
  • A charity shop should be only occupied by the registered charity. The charity should sell primarily donated goods and should use the profits from sales for the purpose of that charity.

*2 Open access is defined as:

  • membership being open to all sections of the local community taking into account the level of membership fees (excepting where the capacity of the facility is limited, or
  • where the organisation actively encourages membership from particular groups in the community which the Council considers particularly deserving of support, such as young people, older age groups, persons with a disability. 

Provision of facilities is defined as:

  • providing training or education for its members, or
  • providing facilities which directly relieve the authority of the need to do so or enhance and supplement those which it does provide.

Not-for-profit Organisations

For Discretionary rate relief purposes, a Not-for-profit organisation is:

  • one which is not established or conducted for personal or private profit,
  • whose objectives are charitable, but it is not registered as a charity.

Mandatory rate relief is not awarded to Not-for-profit organisations. However, we can award up to 100% Discretionary rate relief.  

All the following conditions are normally required to be met:

  • The rate-paying organisation’s (or its local branch’s) services/facilities should be primarily for the benefit of the local community in Cornwall.
  • The property should be wholly or mainly used for the organisation’s Not-for-profit making purposes.
  • The principles of open access and provision of facilities should be demonstrated in the application (see note above*2).
  • A fundraising shop should only be occupied by the Not-for-profit organisation. The Not-for-profit organisation should sell primarily donated goods and should use the profits from sales for the purpose of that organisation

Rural businesses

We are committed to protecting facilities in our rural areas.

For Discretionary rate relief purposes, a rural business is either

  • the sole Post Office,
  • general store,
  • public house,
  • petrol filling station
  • any food shop, or
  • any other rural business situated in a designated rural settlement.

A designated rural settlement is defined as one which is:

  • situated wholly/partly within the authority area;
  • appears to have a population of 3,000 or less on 31 December prior to a chargeable year; and
  • designated as a rural settlement by the authority.

Where the ratepayer is the occupier of a:

  • Post Offices,
  • general stores,
  • public houses,
  • petrol filling stations and
  • food shops they must, subject to the rateable value thresholds, be granted 50% in Mandatory rate relief. 

We may increase the level of rate relief in these cases by allowing Discretionary rate relief by up to a further 50%. 

Other rural businesses

We may be able to grant rural rate relief on certain other occupied properties in a rural settlement where the rateable value is less than £16,500*3. 

This will depend on the extent to which the loss of the facility would impact on the local community. 

*3 increased in line with Central Government up-rating at revaluation or other times.

Human lifesaving/rescue organisations

We consider organisations in this category provide a valuable service to the local community, even though the umbrella organisations can be national charities. Cornwall has one of the largest stretches of coastline in the UK, so organisations such as the RNLI are vital to help protect local people and visitors. Similarly, St John Ambulance, although a national organisation, provides training and activities for local people as well as attending local events to offer first aid services.

Level 3

The criteria normally used for level 3 are set out below:

Charities:                                                                      

Group Discretionary rate relief %

Charity shops

- Not part of an organisation operating outside Cornwall

up to 15

 

Charity shops

- Part of an organisation operating outside Cornwall

zero

 

Charity sports clubs, CASCs, public leisure facilities

- With a rateable value of over £20,000

up to 10

 

Charity sports clubs, CASCs, public leisure facilities

- With a rateable value of £20,000 or less

up to 15

 

Community / village halls

up to 20

Educational establishments (Pre-schools, nurseries, playgroups, toddler groups)

- Not part/franchise of an organisation operating outside Cornwall

up to 15

 

 Educational establishments (Pre-schools, nurseries, playgroups, toddler groups)

- Part/franchise of an organisation operating outside Cornwall

zero

 

 Educational establishments

- All other educational establishments

zero

 

Entrance fee paying organisations (e.g. art galleries, theatres, museums, tourist attractions, zoos)

- Where the max entrance fee is no more than £4.50/person

up to 15

 

 Entrance fee paying organisations (e.g. art galleries, theatres, museums, tourist attractions, zoos)

- Where the max entrance fee is more than £4.50/person

zero

 

Historic and heritage sites

zero

Hospice buildings

(excluding charity shops and offices)

up to 20

 

Housing Associations

zero

Youth organisations

(e.g. scouts, guides, cadets, surf lifesaving, youth clubs)

up to 20

 

Charities not included in above categories

 (Measured by community benefit)

up to 15

 

Not-for-profit organisations:

Group Discretionary rate relief %

Community / Village halls

up to 100

Educational establishments (Pre-schools, nurseries, playgroups, toddler groups)

- Not part/franchise of an organisation operating outside Cornwall

up to 75

 

Educational establishments (Pre-schools, nurseries, playgroups, toddler groups)

- Part/franchise of an organisation operating outside Cornwall

zero

 

Educational establishments

 - All other educational establishments

zero

 

Entrance fee paying organisations (e.g. art galleries, theatres, museums, tourist attractions, zoos)

- Where the max entrance fee is no more than £4.50/person

up to 75

 

Entrance fee paying organisations (e.g. art galleries, theatres, museums, tourist attractions, zoos)

 - Where the max entrance fee is more than £4.50/person

zero

 

Fundraising shops 

- Not part of an organisation operating outside Cornwall

up to 75

 

Fundraising shops

- Part of an organisation operating outside Cornwall

zero

 

Historic and heritage sites

zero

Housing Associations

zero

Not for profit sports clubs/ public leisure facilities

- With a rateable value of over £20,000

up to 35

 

 Not for profit sports clubs/ public leisure facilities

 - With a rateable value of £20,000 or less

up to 75

 

 Youth organisations

(e.g. scouts, guides, cadets, surf lifesaving, youth clubs)

up to 80

 

Not for profit organisations not included in above categories

(Measured by community benefit)

up to 75

 

Rural businesses:

Sole Rural Businesses:

Criteria Mandatory relief % Discretionary relief %

Sole Post Office or village store with a rateable value up to £8,500*3

50

 

50

 

Sole petrol station with a rateable value up to £12,500*3

50

50

Sole public house with a rateable value up to £12,500*3

50

zero

Other Rural Businesses:

NB: Situated in a rural settlement and where the rateable value does not exceed £16,500*3

Criteria Mandatory relief % Discretionary relief %

Measured by community benefit

zero

up to 50

*3 increased in line with Central Government up-rating at revaluation or other times.

Human lifesaving/rescue organisations:

Where a Mandatory award is applicable, a Discretionary award of up to 20% may be granted.  For Not-for-profit organisations, a Discretionary award of up to 100% may be granted. 

The use of the property should be considered, e.g., a store used to keep lifeboat equipment could be considered of value to a local community but an office used for administration may not have a direct value for the community.

5. Hardship relief

We have discretion to award up to 100% relief from Business Rates to businesses who are experiencing hardship.

We will only consider cases that are in the interest of the community because a significant sum comes from Council funds.

We consider each case on its own merits:

  • Reduction of rates on the grounds of hardship is the exception rather than the rule.
  • The test of 'hardship' is not limited to financial hardship - we take into account all factors affecting the business’s ability to pay their business rates.
  • In addition to the tax payers direct financial interests, we also consider: 
    • potential job losses, and
    • loss of amenities in the area.

How to apply

If your business is open, include:

  • your current and previous two years audited accounts
  • your bank statements from the last six months
  • details of your income and expenditure over the last six months if not covered in your audited accounts
  • Further details should also be supplied, including the reason for the hardship, how long you think the hardship will last and what business plans do you have going forward
  • You should also explain why it would be in the interest of local council tax payers if the hardship relief is awarded. This may go wider than financial interests of local tax payers, for example, where the employment prospects in the area would be worsened by a local business closing, or the amenities of an area might be reduced, for instance, the loss of the only shop in the village.

If your business is closed, include:

  • your bank statements from the last three months
  • copies of your payslips for the last three months

Local discretionary rate relief:

From 1 April 2012, local discretionary rate relief may be granted subject to state aid limits. 

Awards using this legislation can only be made giving due consideration to the council tax payers of Cornwall.

Decisions to be made on an individual case basis, taking into account legislation, guidance, case law and officer knowledge. Officer panel awards may be made of up to £1000 per year for individual ratepayers. Amounts between £1000 and £10,000 receive approval of the service director and portfolio holder. Amounts over £50,000 must have the approval of the Cabinet (subject to Governance review).

The following must be provided to support all applications:

  • Applications to be made in writing and sent to the address on this page
  • Relevant financial evidence to demonstrate why the relief is required
  • Evidence to show it is in the interests of Cornwall’s taxpayers that the business is supported.

6. Decisions on rate relief applications

The guidance allows an Officer panel to make decisions on individual rate relief applications. It is hoped that the majority of applications can be determined in this way by Officers.

7. Appeals

Appeals will be reconsidered by the Head of Service and their decision will be final.

8. Periodic reviews

A Discretionary rate relief award can remain valid:

  • indefinitely; unless
  • the end date is specified; or
  • until the expiry of one full Council financial year after notice is given (e.g. notice given 20 March 2017, the existing award will remain in place until 31 March 2018); or
  • the liability ceases

These guidelines will be reviewed every five years:

  • in line with the Valuation Office’s revaluation cycle or
  • if the Business Rates legislation is amended or
  • as necessary to ensure it complies with current legislation and Cornwall Council’s priorities.

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