A win in the Court of Appeal today for major supermarkets over the long running £500 million dispute* concerning business rates and ATM machines has been welcome by experts at Colliers International, the global real estate advisers and branded a “win for common sense”. John Webber, Head of Business Rates said, “This is a massive relief, not only for the supermarkets involved, but also for the consumers who need access to these machines and would have suffered if the judgement went the other way and retailers ripped the ATMs out of their stores.”

According to the judgement, the Court of Appeal has ruled that ATMs located both inside and outside of stores should NOT be assessed for additional business rates on top of the normal store rates costs, retailers are already facing. This overturned the ruling of the Upper Tribunal in January 2017 that made a distinction between ATMs inside a building and out and said that the sites of ATMs located within premises should not be assessed for business rates, but those ATM sites outside a shop or store should.  This new decision has knocked on the head the Government’s VOA (Valuation Office Agency) claim that all ATMs both inside and outside stores such be additionally assessed.

In terms of financials the decision is massive with Colliers estimating around £500 million was at stake. Each ATM site would have attracted an average rates liability of around £4000.  As the Appellants are successful, the refunds to the supermarkets are estimated to be in the region of £496 million.

This comes as a massive relief to the big retailers, already suffering from the financial burden of higher rate bills following the 2017 Revaluation.

In addition, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the VOA must lift the stay on all of the appeals that have snarled up the system since the duration of the case. Colliers estimated that there are approximately 50,000 cases in the system concerned with ATM business rates issue. 

The VOA has asked for permission to appeal against this  Court of Appeal decision and the Court of Appeal has said no.

However, if it decides it wants to take the case further, it has 28 days to apply to the Supreme Court to obtain the right to appeal.  Colliers understand that the VOA will be making this application as soon as possible.

 “This is overall a great result,” says John Webber, Head of Business Rates at Colliers International. “We are delighted the Courts saw sense. The one fly in the ointment would be if the Supreme Court allowed the VOA to appeal further. We hope no further taxpayers' money is wasted in pursuing this unnecessary and unfair claim. “

He continued: "There was a real fear that if the VOA had been successful this would have opened up the floodgates to assess up to 400,000 vending operations which would have been calamitous for both retailers and those operators. Hopefully,  this puts the VOA zealots back in the box and they get on with dealing with the outstanding appeals instead of cooking the golden goose named Retail. "