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Once a liability order has been obtained in the magistrates’ court to collect outstanding business rates on its behalf, bailiffs are instructed by councils to carry out the work.
Bailiffs can also levy ‘distress’ and enter premises to take goods and sell at public auction with the proceeds taken by councils to settle the debt.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, all councils in England were asked to provide details of how many business premises had been referred to bailiffs, also know as enforcement agents, between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, with details being provided on 1,714,729 out of the 1,933,963 non-domestic properties liable for rates.
The responses, which cover 88.66% of all non-domestic properties, showed a total of 69,367 instructions to bailiffs were made.
Birmingham City Council made the highest number of referrals to bailiffs at 3,755 in the previous financial year, over business rates arrears, followed by Westminster and Manchester City Councils with 3,007 and 2,701 respectively.
Altus Group head of UK business rates Robert Hayton said: “If you exclude the 678,163 properties that receive 100% small business rates relief and had no bill to pay, about one in six of all non-domestic properties faced having their goods seized by bailiffs last year.”
Altus Group also said firms are facing business rates increases for 2020-21.
Highest property taxes
This would result in a total increase of £536.03m in England, the real estate adviser has claimed from its calculations.
Hayton added: “It’s not the mechanics of the rating system that is of primary concern of business but the level of the actual rates bills.
“That is the message we are hearing from all sectors of the economy, not just retail. Commercial property is already making a significant contribution to overall UK tax revenues.
“With the highest property taxes across the EU, the Chancellor should recognise this in his upcoming Autumn Budget by removing the automatic inflationary increase.”