Charitable Exemption can apply where a property is occupied by a charity and where the actual use of the premises is dedicated to the charitable objectives of that charity.
Being a charity does not necessarily mean you are entitled to exemption from rates. Both parts of the paragraph above require to be fulfilled before an exemption can apply, this means that LPS will require proof of (a) who is in occupation and (b) what activities are taking place within the premises.
This is a complicated subject and charities should ensure they have sought professional advice in relation to the implications of renting premises. It should not be assumed that exemption will apply simply because the premises are occupied by a charity.
Eligibility criteria for Charitable Exemption
Charitable purposes include formally constituted trusts for:
- the advancement of religion
- the advancement of education
- the relief of poverty
- other purposes beneficial to the community
If you wish to seek Charitable Exemption for a property you must show that it is either a charity, or alternatively that it is not established for profit, and that the use of the premises directly facilitates the charitable objectives.
See below examples where exemption can apply.
A simple example is a church, which is held by trustees whose main objects are the advancement of religion, and the church building is used in connection with these objects.
A property used for recreational purposes
The use of premises for recreation or other leisure time occupation may also be considered to be charitable if the facilities are provided in the interests of social welfare and are for the public benefit. A village hall or recreation centre often falls into this category.
A charity shop would not have to pay rates if they sell only donated goods. However if they also sell goods bought wholesale the rateable valuation of the property will be apportioned on the basis of the respective turnover of donated and wholesale goods.
Examples where exemption will not apply
Where the entire property is only used to store items which may be used in connection with the charitable objectives. Storage is not a charitable objective in itself, and therefore exemption cannot apply.
Where a charity has an agreement to make use of premises but has not yet taken up occupation. The period during which a property is being fitted out or is being held pending occupation is not in actual use for the charitable objectives. This timeframe may require rates to be paid until actual occupation and the eligibility criteria are proven to apply.
Property in shared use with other commercial activities
Where part of a property is occupied by a charity carrying out its charitable objectives and part used by a person or company running a commercial business those parts identified as being a commercial business will be liable to pay rates. Therefore, either party should advise LPS if such circumstances occur in order to ensure appropriate rating liability is being applied to the correct occupiers.
Property partly occupied by a charity
Where a charity has taken up occupation of a large property but only uses part of the premises, the vacant parts are not being used for the charitable objectives, so those areas cannot fulfil the eligibility criteria. The vacant parts may be apportioned and will attract commercial business rates payable by the occupier - usually the charity.
If you believe that your property should be exempt from business rates, you can apply for exemption using the non-domestic rates application for exemption form (PDF, 387K).
Charitable Exemption for business rates is a complicated subject and it may be advisable to seek independent professional advice. Choose a solicitor for your business.
If you have a query regarding your business rates you should contact Land & Property Services.
Know your legal responsibilities
- Do you need a licence?
- Get the right business insurance
- Comply with the law when providing goods and services
- Know your customers' rights
- Distance and online selling rules
- Understand pricing legislation
- Buying goods from outside NI
- Selling goods outside NI
- GDPR compliance checklist
- Pay your business rates
- Understand staff contracts and your responsibilities
- Taking on contractors and subcontractors
- What you need to do about health and safety
- Know your legal obligations on pensions
Understand tax and VAT
Sell and market your products or services