Supermarkets win ATM business rates case against the government

Retailers are in line for a £200m tax refund after winning a legal fight against the government over business rates for store cash machines.

Supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op went to the Court of Appeal after a ruling last year upheld a decision in 2013 that ATMs built into the front of a shop or petrol station should have a separate business rates bill.

The government’s Valuation Office Agency (VOA) was refused leave to appeal though it could petition the Supreme Court to hear such a case.

It marks a rare, valuable victory for business over business rates as retailers in England and Wales had been facing the prospect of a £44.5m ‘hole in the wall’ bill this year alone according to Altus, the real estate adviser.

Free-to-use supermarket cash machines were at risk of disappearing had the rates case – supported by independent ATM operator Cardtronics Europe – gone against them.

Such a move would have exacerbated the trend for falling numbers as bank branches close.

A Tesco spokesman said: “We recognise the vital role that ATMs play in the daily lives of our customers and remain committed to providing this service to them.

“We welcome today’s result and the confirmation of our belief that ATMs should not be separately rateable.”

The tax, which is paid to local authorities, is currently facing a wider backlash amid claims higher rateable values are killing off high streets though the Chancellor announced some relief in last month’s budget for smaller retailers.

Robert Hayton, head of UK business rates at Altus, said: “This is the latest in a series of cases which flow from Councils’ need to increase their business rates income.

“This landmark ruling and the tax rebates that will flow from it will have massive implications for councils and their budgets under business rate retention which could potentially impact upon local services.”

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