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Hurstwood Properties v Rossendale Borough Council

In Hurstwood Properties v Rossendale Borough Council [2021] UKSC 16 (14 May 2021) the Supreme Court allowed the local authorities’ appeals finding that the respondent property companies were liable to business rates on empty commercial properties.

Liability for business rates normally falls on the person who occupies a property but if it is empty  liability falls instead on the owner of the property. The companies in this case had entered into schemes to avoid rates by leasing empty properties to special purpose vehicles (SPVs) that were then either dissolved or placed into voluntary liquidation. The companies claimed not to be liable for rates because they were no longer in possession and the SPVs avoided liability essentially through the length of time it took to complete the administrative processes that followed dissolution or liquidation. 

The court applied a Ramsay analysis which requires legislation to be interpreted in the light of its purpose and held that on these facts the SPVs were not...

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