Around 40,000 ATMs could be closed down as the authorities fight to slap them with crippling business rates
Around 40,000 cash machines could be closed down as the authorities fight to slap them with crippling business rates.
A landmark court case could see ATMs inside pubs and shops across the country classed as independent premises – with their own rates to pay.
About 40,000 free-to-use machines in the UK are at risk of closing
The charges would land councils more than £200million extra a year.
It is likely these costs would be borne by the shopkeepers themselves, and campaigners fear many would decide to switch off their machines rather than pay up.
Experts have warned up to 40,000 ATMs could be hit by the tax grab – many in isolated areas where customers have no other way to access cash.
On average retailers would face an extra business rates bill of £5,000 a year for an ATM – giving councils a total of £200million from the raid.
The move would be a fresh blow for Britain’s embattled high street, which has already lost 50,000 jobs this year.
And campaigners fear that if judges approve the new rates, it could pave the way for further bills on vending machines and even children’s rides.
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The Mail is campaigning for reform of business rates, cheaper parking and fair taxes on giant foreign tech firms to protect our town centres.
The Mail launched a campaign 1 July 2018 to save Britain’s high streets after a staggering 50,000 retail jobs were axed in the first half of this year
Ron Delnevo, of the ATM Industry Association, said: ‘This tax would be another huge blow for our ATMs and make many completely unprofitable.
‘Councils are desperate for money so they just want to apply business rates to everything they can see. It’s an absolute disgrace and we should be focused on the public interest, not filling the public coffers.’
At present, ‘hole in the wall’ ATMs that face onto a street are taxed as a separate property with separate rates payable. Consultant Altus Group estimates 15,422 of these machines exist, with a total yearly rates bill of £44.5million.
However, indoor ATMs such as those in the foyer of a supermarket or the corner of a newsagent do not attract separate rates.
A legal row over the discrepancy has been going on for more than a year, with the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) – the government agency that sets business rates – lined up against supermarkets including Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
The retailers claim a decision in the VOA’s favour would force them to pay as much as £5,000 a year per ATM in extra rates. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons will already pay £1.8billion in rates bills this year alone.
As well as hitting supermarkets, a decision to change the tax rules will hammer independent retailers with a cash machine.
The rates fears come on top of separate changes to cash machine fees that many retailers already fear will make their ATMs unprofitable.
James Lowman, of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: ‘Free-to-use cash machines are essential in providing access to cash in all kinds of communities. However, in many areas these machines are under threat. ‘We believe that free-to-use cash machines should be excluded from the rating list altogether in recognition of the role that they play in communities.’
The Court of Appeal has heard arguments from both sides and is expected to hand down a judgment by the end of the month.
It will be a high-stakes ruling, because if judges rule in the retailers’ favour it is expected to mean that ATMs in supermarket car parks are also exempt from paying separate rates.
This could force the VOA to repay £260million of rates, according to estate agent Colliers International. But if the VOA wins, there are fears it could open the door for other devices such as vending machines and even automated children’s rides to be hit with rates too.
John Webber, of Colliers, said: ‘If the VOA wins then anything internal will be taxed. That would be a nightmare.’
It is expected the losing side will appeal to the Supreme Court – meaning the case is unlikely to be settled for at least a year.
The VOA said: ‘Both parties appealed to the Court of Appeal to obtain a decision … We are unable to comment further while litigation is ongoing.’
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