Charities And Commercial Rates – Valuation Act 2015

Author:Mr Des Rooney and Kevin Hoy
Profession:Mason Hayes & Curran

Why are some charities liable to payment of rates, while others are not?  What determines liability?  Has anything changed?

What are the criteria for general charity exemption?

A building occupied by a charitable organisation:

exclusively for charitable purposes and not for private profit. is exempt from rates.

Does this mean that a Revenue CHY (or CRA) Number entitles a charity to rates exemption?

Not necessarily.  The meaning of the terms "charitable organisation" and "charitable purposes" have been narrowly construed for rates.

So what has changed?

Firstly, recent decisions of the Valuation Tribunal acknowledge that much of the case law prior to the Valuation Act 2001 may no longer be relevant.  Those decisions were based on the interpretation of earlier legislation which has now been repealed and replaced by the Valuation Act 2001.  This means that a wider meaning of charitable purposes may now be possible.

Have there been more recent changes?

Yes.  The Valuation Act 2015 came into effect on 8 June.  This now adopts the definition of "charitable organisation" in the Charities Act 2009.  Accordingly, a charity registered with the Charities Regulatory Authority ("CRA") may now be recognised as a charitable organisation for the purposes of exemption from rates.  Additionally, this opens the possibility that the definition of charitable purposes in the Charities Act 2009 may now become of relevance.

What does this mean?

If the Valuation Tribunal adopts this interpretation then, it is arguable that the criteria applied by the Revenue Commissioners in granting charity numbers would also be relevant for exemption from rates. 

For exemption from rates, is it necessary for a charity to show public benefit?

Yes.  The advancement of religion is presumed to be of public benefit as would relief of poverty/economic hardship and advancement of education.  Additionally, the Charities Act now recognises the following:

the advancement of community welfare including the relief of those in need by reason of youth, age, ill-health, or disability the advancement of community development, including rural or urban regeneration the promotion of civic responsibility or voluntary work the promotion of health, including the prevention or relief of sickness, disease or human suffering the advancement of conflict resolution or reconciliation the promotion of religious or racial harmony and harmonious community relations the protection of the natural...

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