Belfast Telegraph

Retail giants launch appeal court challenge over cash machines tax ruling

Some of Britain's biggest supermarkets have launched an appeal against a controversial tax ruling that could spell the end of free "hole in the wall" cash machines attached to shops.

Retail giants including Tesco, Sainsbury's and the Co-operative Group are taking the Government to the Court of Appeal after a costly legal ruling in April over business rates on cash machines.

The ruling upheld a decision in 2013 that cash machines built into the front of a shop or petrol station should have a separate business rates bill - a move costing the industry nearly half a billion pounds.

It dashed retailer hopes of clawing back £200 million in rebates for past rates paid, while they are also facing a mammoth £206 million bill for the next five years under the recent revaluation.

The legal decision sparked fears that small shops and independent petrol forecourts may be forced to close ATMs or start charging for cash withdrawals.

But furious retailers are fighting back in what is set to be a lengthy legal battle, with a spokesman for HM Courts & Tribunal Service confirming their appeal was filed earlier this week.

Experts branded the decision to slap business rates on ATMs as a "stealth tax".

It came as the sector has already been left facing crippling business rate rises under this month's revaluation.

Retailers are having to pay £39.3 million a year on cash machines - or nearly £2,800 on average for each ATM, according to r ents and rates specialists CVS.

While ATMs attached to retailers are having to pay rates, the regime does not apply to free-standing cash machines within stores.

But it still affects many thousands of hole-in-the-wall ATMs, with the number liable for business rates surging from 3,140 in 2010 to 14,068 this year.

Retailers were sent reeling after the 2013 decision by the Government to charge rates on "hole in the wall" cash dispensers, which saw bills sent to thousands of retailers in 2014, backdated to the start of the last tax regime in April 2010.

Almost one in six - or more than 196,000 - current business rates appeals lodged with the Valuation Tribunal Service relate to cash machines, according to a recent freedom of information request by CVS.

The Association of Convenience Stores has raised fears that the tax on ATMs could not only hit small retailers hard, but also deprive communities of vital access to cash.

It wants to see local authorities use funds announced in the Budget for business rates relief to reduce cost burden for under-pressure shops.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: "Cash machines, especially free-to-use ATMs, provide an important service to customers and support the wider community where often their local shop is the only source of free cash.

"The ruling that 'hole in the wall' cash machines should be rated separately is demonstrative of the mess that the business rates system is in, and we encourage Government to look again at this and other measures to make business rates fairer for local shops."

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