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Live sector raises concerns over business rates being applied to festival sites

By | Published on Friday 19 June 2015


A few days before UK Music published its report stating that so called music tourism – people travelling to music events – generated £3.1 billion for the British economy, representatives for the festival sector made a submission to the government’s Business Rates Review expressing concern that the Valuations Office Agency, which advises the tax man on the taxable value of property, has been recommending business rates be applied to festival sites where previously no such payments were required.

In its submission to the review, the festival sector wrote: “The festival and events industry has significant concerns about the current reassessment of festival and events sites being conducted by the Valuations Office Agency. As a result of this, we are seeing land which has previously been outside the business rates regime, on the grounds of its status as agricultural land, now being reassessed as rateable, and have seen a number of instances where site- owners are receiving bills backdated as far as five years, in circumstances where they could not reasonably have anticipated such bills”.

The festival reps state their viewpoint that no such rates should apply to festival sites which are, after all, “temporary and ancillary uses of agricultural land”.

Moreover, they object to the unpredictability of the VOA’s recent activity. They write: “Since there is no clear policy set out in the VOA Rating Manual, or elsewhere, with regard to the rateability of festival sites taking place on agricultural land we have no way of understanding the guiding principles of the reassessment. It is unfair that festival and events sites are apparently subject to a reassessment which appears to be arbitrary and piecemeal, without any clear policy framework”.

The submission concludes: “This issue requires a discussion at ministerial level about how business rates policy will help or inhibit business growth. As part of this we believe it is essential that there is a review of the evidence around the contribution that festivals and events bring to the UK economy, and the rural economy; and how an increase in business rates liability may impact business investment, the competitiveness of the UK events industry, the cultural life of the UK and the economic and social impact on rural areas”.

Amongst the organisations backing the submission were the UK Live Music Group, the Concert Promoters Association, the Association Of Festival Organisers and the Association Of Independent Festivals.