RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) has once again called on the government to take action on empty property rates (EPR) after extensive research revealed the business tax on vacant buildings is significantly harming our economic recovery.

Chartered surveyors from across the North West contributed to the RICS research, sending a clear message to the government that empty property rates are holding back the region.

The full RICS Empty Property Rates Report has now been published on the organisation’s website (www.rics.org) and provides updated evidence on the affect of empty property rates on the high street and the wider impact on development, investment and growth. Key opinions from North West respondents include:

  • 92% viewed EPR as a barrier to town centre regeneration
  • 89% felt the policy was restrictive to overall economic growth
  • 88% considered EPR a significant deterrent for speculative building

The findings support research announced recently by the TaxPayers Alliance which revealed a massive £1.1 billion was paid last year in business rates on empty properties in the UK between 2009-10 and 2011-12.

RICS say the government must look at this issue again if it is serious about supporting small businesses on our high streets. We have yet to see any commitment from government on defining the exemption for new build that the Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement.

Above all RICS recommends the Treasury:

  • Increase exemption from EPR for retail space from 3 to 6 months
  • Increase exemption from EPR for office and industrial space from 6 to 12 months
  • Remove all refurbishment, renovation or retrofitting projects from the business rate list until completion

Phil Kelly, Director  – says: “It is clear from the RICS research that business rates on vacant premises are not only constraining investment in commercial property, but also acting as a major barrier to speculative development”.

“We understand the need for government to generate tax revenue in the ongoing tough economic climate; however the significant revenue of empty property rates versus business growth is now unsustainable. This is money that could be invested into hugely beneficial property led growth, which all regions – not just the North West – desperately need to see over the next couple of years.”

Contact Phil.. email p.kelly@pettycommercial.co.uk