The Supreme Court has today handed down judgement and found in favour for major supermarkets* in the long running £500 million dispute concerning business rates and ATM machines. The decision has been welcomed by experts at Colliers International, the global real estate advisers and branded a “win for common sense”.
John Webber (pictured), head of business rates at Colliers, said, “This is a massive relief, not only for the supermarkets involved, but also for the consumers who need access to these machines. Many would have suffered if the judgement went the other way and retailers ripped the ATMs out of their stores, to save extra rates bills, denying many in the local community free access to cash.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling upheld the judgement of November 2018 in the Court of Appeal that 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.
Although the Court of Appeal refused the VOA permission to appeal against its decision, in May 2019, the Supreme Court overruled and allowed the VOA this right of appeal, a decision branded as a costly “nightmare” by Colliers at the time
This new Supreme Court decision has however finally 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 has been at stake. Each ATM site would have attracted an average rates liability of around £4000. The refunds to the supermarkets should be in the region of £496 million.
This decision comes as a massive relief to the big retailers, particularly since 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 40,000 cases in the system concerned with ATM business rates issue.
John added: “This is overall a great result and we are delighted the courts saw sense. There was a real fear that if the VOA had been successful, not only would it have led to the ripping out of ATM machines but it would also have opened up the floodgates to assess up to 400,000 vending operations which would have been calamitous for both retailers and those operators.
“Of course, the tragedy over all of this is the total waste of taxpayers' money in pursuing this unnecessary and unfair claim. The local authorities are unlikely to have accrued for this cost and at the end of the day it is ‘Joe Public’ who will suffer. Let’s hope the zealots at the VOA get back in the box and get on with dealing with the outstanding appeals instead of trying to take a swipe at the retail sector and the community at large."