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INDUSTRY FOCUS

Hole in the wall will no longer result in hole in store finances

Stores that have been forced to pay separate business rates on their ‘hole in the wall’ ATMs are due more than £500 million in rebates after a new legal ruling.

A Supreme Court Decision on 20 May 2020 ended a near decade-long struggle by supermarkets and ATM providers to remove separate rates payable on external facing machines.

Independent retailers said they had been hit with demands to pay tens of thousands of pounds to either the local authority or their ATM provider, which in turn used the funds to pay the local authority.

Dave Hiscutt of Londis Weymouth said: “It is absolutely the right decision made at absolutely the right time for many store owners.”

Cardtronics international managing director Marc Terry welcomed the ruling and responded: “It is important that retailers get all the help they possibly can in this particularly challenging time for the high street. We will therefore be working through this complex situation in order to ensure that our merchants receive the rebates they are due from their local authority and we will work to ensure that any rebates are passed on as soon as we receive them. As we have only just learnt of the decision, we will be communicating with our merchants to update them on the plan as soon as we understand how the rebate process will work.

For stores that paid the bills directly to their local authority, a representative from Altus Group explained that reimbursement will be pending the relevant Government department – the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), editing their list of rateable properties. Until this is completed, it is not possible for councils to refund the ATM rates paid since 2010.

An expert source warned that this means it could take more than two months for the funds to be paid to stores by their local council. Robert Hayton, head of UK business rates at Altus Group said the decision and subsequent payments would ‘bring closure’ for many retailers.

The case involves rates bills starting from the 2010 business rates revaluation where the VOA began to separately bill for ATMs. Despite losing the case in a lower court last year, store owners continued to receive demands for payments after the government department was allowed an appeal.  

Head of business rates at Colliers International John Webber described the VOA’s legal efforts to enforce ATM billing as a “total waste of taxpayer’s money.”

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