Previous Policy Developments

From this page you can access previous rating policy developments prior to the Assembly elections held in March 2017.

Play your part in Rates Rethink process - Ó Muilleoir

Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has published a consultation paper on the package of measures announced on the 22 November. This initiates a nine week consultation period, ending on 16 February 2016.

The Minister said: “My Rates Rethink proposals are the biggest package of reforms to our rates system for a generation. I want to see a modern, fairer rates system, which encourages regeneration, investment and entrepreneurship, while at the same time discourages dereliction and decline.

“The changes I wish to take forward have fairness at their heart with everyone contributing according to their ability. They have three underlying objectives. Firstly, to spread the burden wider, secondly to be more discerning with the application of reliefs and allowances and finally, to use the rating system as a lever of social and economic development.”

The proposed measures include:

  • a new £22m a year Rates Investment Scheme for smaller retail and hospitality business
  • piloting Business Empowerment Zones in two areas (Lower Newtownards and Lower Falls Roads)
  • increasing rates on empty commercial properties
  • Charity shops to make a contribution
  • charging the highest value homes more
  • removing the early payment discount
  • reducing landlord allowances
  • Student halls of residence to start paying rates
  • a three year rates holiday for first residents of new energy efficient home.

The Minister added: “It is vitally important that we get these changes right for future generations to help build growth across our society and that’s where you can play your part. This consultation will give everyone the opportunity for their voice to be heard on these important issues.

“I would strongly encourage people to respond to this consultation so that collectively, we create a 21st Century rating system that is responsive to both the views of ratepayers and the needs of our public finances in paying for our public services. The consultation closed on 16 February 2017.”

Rates Liability for Domestic Rental Properties

In March 2016 the Department launched a public consultation exercise in relation to rates liability in the domestic rental sector.

The Department intends to use the consultation process to establish the case for change in this policy area with the aim of ensuring that arrangements:

  • are fair, not simply to those in the sectors concerned but to the wider body of ratepayers
  • are workable and affordable (and that any allowances that are provided are no more and no less than they need to be)
  • support the effective and efficient collection of rates
  • ensure clarity of responsibilities for rate liability for both landlords and tenants, and
  • are consistent, so that one type of landlord is not placed at a disadvantage compared to another type of landlord

The consultation exercise ran for an 8 week period and closed on 3 June 2016.

Responses to the consultation exercise and an accompanying consultation report have now been made available on the Rating Policy Division’s website. The results of the consultation exercise have now been analysed and presented to the Minister, in order to information policy decisions in this area.

Future of Small Business Rate Relief Scheme

On 21 March, the Minister of Finance and Personnel along with his Department for Social Development counterpart launched a discussion paper on the future of small business rate relief scheme.

The Departments are seeking views on alternatives to small business rate relief, with a particular focus on town centres. The discussion period ended on 13 May 2016.  

Review of Non-Domestic Rating System

The Department has considered the responses from the public consultation and have now published a report.  

Rate relief for sports clubs

On 19 January 2016 Finance Minister Mervyn Storey introduced legislation in the Assembly to allow enhanced rate relief to be provided to struggling community amateur sports clubs.

This Bill permits the Department to put community sports on the same footing as community halls by granting 100 per cent rate relief to unlicensed club premises and associated sporting facilities. 

The Rates (Amendment) Bill passed its Final Stage in the Assembly on 2 February 2016 and gained Royal Assent on 28 February 2016.

On 2 March the Department launched a targeted consultation document in relation to the proposed use of the enabling power. The consultation ended on 9 May 2016. 

The Assembly passed the necessary legislation for these changes to apply from 26 October onwards. The change enhances relief from 80 per cent to 100 per cent for Community Amateur Sports Clubs without a bar. Clubs must apply in order to receive the enhanced relief. 

District Rate Convergence Scheme - publication of subsidies

28 January 2015 - the Department of Finance and Personnel has now published details of the subsidy for ratepayers who were facing increased rate bills because of the amalgamation of council areas and redrawing of boundaries.

The discount will be automatically applied to rate bills and no action is needed from ratepayers who are eligible for the subsidy. It will address only the increase in rate bills which is a direct result of the creation of the new larger councils.

The scheme provides a subsidy to reduce the district rate element of the bill in those areas that would have increased as a result of the convergence of council areas - in other words, the regrouping of ratepayers within the new structure. This subsidy will be phased out in stages over the next four years. It will have no direct bearing on the financing of the new councils who will still act independently next month in setting the district rates to cover their spending plans for next year.

Evaluation of the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme

This evaluation was undertaken by the Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy (NICEP) at the University of Ulster, informed by a public consultation between April and July 2014. A consultation paper,  the responses to the consultation and a factual consultation report have been published.

4 December 2014: NICEP has completed the evaluation and their full evaluation report has now been published.

The Executive's draft Budget proposals made provision of £20 million for continuation of the scheme. 

De-Rating of commercial window displays

November 2014 - this concerns a relatively minor policy proposal being considered by DFP and currently subject to a targeted consultation over the coming weeks. It would involve a concession being made so that window space in empty shops can be used for the display of goods without incurring a full occupied rate.

A short policy paper has been circulated around interested parties seeking views. This supplements a wider consultation undertaken by DFP in 2012, to inform the current policy which disregards the non-commercial use of window displays in empty shops in assessing liability for rates.

Non Domestic Rates Revaluation 2015 – publication of draft values

13 November 2014 - Land & Property Services (LPS) completed the revaluation of all non-domestic properties in Northern Ireland for rates purposes. A Schedule of Draft Rateable Values is now available to view. These values will be used to assess rate bills from April 2015 onwards.

Currently non domestic (business) rate bills are based on 2001 rental values. From April 2015 they will be based on 2013 rental values. This will rebalance business rates because the proportion of the rate burden (what each ratepayer pays) will be shared out relative to the 2013 rental value of their property. The new values are informed by rents and trading information provided by ratepayers.


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