Back in Business rate support scheme to close in March

Date published: 23 February 2023

The Department of Finance is reminding businesses that applications for the Back in Business rate support scheme will be accepted up until 31 March 2023.

Bunelos owner Paul O'Connor stands, smiling to camera while holding a tray of donuts.

New and expanding businesses are being encouraged to apply to the ‘Back in Business’ scheme, which offers a 50% rates discount for up to two years if they move into premises that were previously used for retail purposes and have been unoccupied for 12 months or more.

The scheme, which has been operating since April 2022, has been successful in helping various businesses throughout Northern Ireland to benefit from the rates support, helping to provide small businesses with greater financial security and boosting the regeneration of local high streets.

Ian Snowden, Chief Executive of Land and Property Services, has encouraged potential applicants to apply before the deadline, saying: “The ‘Back in Business’ scheme has helped numerous new and expanding businesses with their move into vacant premises, helping with the rejuvenation of our high streets and town centres.

“Having the assurance of this two-year discounted rate relief can provide much needed support at a time when financial pressures can be demanding. I would encourage anyone planning to move into a vacant shop unit to start or expand their business to take advantage of the scheme before the application deadline of 31 March 2023.” 

Paul O’Connor, owner of Bunelos coffee and donut shop, recently benefitted from the scheme with the expansion of an additional store on the Ormeau Road in Belfast.  

Paul said: “As with every business, when you’re considering opening new premises one of the main factors in the final decision is finances. I am keen to build the Bunelos brand and having this two-year discounted rate relief was a key consideration in the final decision to expand our business in Belfast.

“I would encourage anyone who is thinking about opening a new business to avail of this opportunity before the deadline.”   

The Back in Business scheme is open to all business types. Applications will be accepted up until 31st March 2023.

Further information on the NI Buiness Info - Back in Business scheme

Notes to editors: 

1.  The Back in Business rate support scheme is funded by the Department of Finance and offers businesses a 50% rates discount for up to two years if they occupy a vacant retail unit.

2.  The Scheme is designed to incentivise business rate payers to consider the occupation of empty retail premises when looking for a business property. 

3.  Eligibility criteria for the Back in Business rate support scheme:

  • You must have occupied business premises on or after 1 April 2022.
  • The business premises you occupy must have been previously vacant for a minimum of 12 months prior to the date you occupied the property.
  • The business premises must have been valued for rates and used for retail purposes (meaning the retail provision of goods or services to members of the public who visit the property).
  • The rates discount of 50% is granted for 24 months beginning on the day which the retail unit becomes occupied.
  • If the premises is rented, and the landlord is liable to pay rates, the landlord must pass benefit onto tenants.
  • Applications must be received by Land & property Services by 31 March 2023.

4.  The Scheme is available to all business types.  Although the scheme is aimed at attracting businesses to occupy shop units that have been vacant for at least 12 months, the new business does not have to be retail.

5.  Vacant commercial properties are entitled to 50% relief on business rates.  The Back in Business scheme works by extending that relief for two years after the property is occupied by a new business.

6.  Media enquiries should be addressed to the Department of Finance Press Office on Tel: 028 9081 6724 or email

7.  To keep up to date with news from the Department you can follow us on the following social media channels:

8.  The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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