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BT Appeals its UK Full Fibre Business Rates Relief Certificate

Saturday, September 25th, 2021 (12:02 am) - Score 3,144
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Telecoms giant BT has lodged an appeal against its business rates relief “certificate” from HMRC’s (UK Government) Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which credible industry sources have told ISPreview allegedly relates to the issue of how much tax (rates) they pay on their new fibre optic broadband lines.

Back in April 2017 the UK Government introduced a welcome 5-year holiday on business rates for new fibre optic (FTTP) broadband infrastructure, which is due to expire next year (March 2022), but has otherwise made deploying new fibre lines a fair bit more affordable (i.e. “‘new fibre’ means fibre that was not laid, flown, blown, affixed or attached before 1st April 2017“).

The regulations state that such networks must be valued at the full rate, including the “new fibre“, and the valuation officer must then certify what proportion of the total value is represented by the “new fibre” (and associated plant and machinery) compared to the whole. A certificate is then issued stating that proportion, which can be presented to the relevant Billing Authority in order to get the appropriate reduction.

In this case, BT, which appears to be represented in the case by investment management firm Colliers (they specialise in business rates valuations and appeals), has lodged an appeal (M0267035) with the Valuation Tribunal Service (VTS) over one such certificate.

We queried this with BT and the operator declined to comment, which is not unusual as operators often prefer to await the outcome of such cases before going on the record. We also contacted the VTS, but they can only share information with those listed as being a party of the appeal. The appeal raises the question of how much BT was offered, and what was the basis for presuming that it wasn’t enough.

We’re continuing to investigate and will update if any credible new information arises.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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12 Responses
  1. Ben says:

    Hmm – taxing fibre has always puzzled me. If an ISP requires additional capacity, surely it’s better for the country if they invest in construction and laying additional fibre instead of investing in (typically) foreign-produced optics to make the existing fibre run faster? I appreciate this temporary rate relief is designed to encourage the former, but ultimately the newly laid fibre will be taxible after the temporary relief lapses.

    1. Mike says:

      I suspect the idea is to provide relief during the rollout then tax it afterwards.

    2. Optimist says:

      The obvious answer is to get rid of both the handouts to construct fibre and and the tax on it after it’s built. The more broadband services people buy, the more VAT rolls into the Treasury coffers in any case.

      As an added bonus, the nunber of civil service positions administering this money-go-round could also be reduced, which is probably the main reason this suggestion won’t be adopted.

    3. Buggerlugz says:

      Nail on the head there Optimist.

  2. GNewton says:

    Taxing fibre is the modern-day equivalent of the old curtain tax.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      Well in 9 year they won’t be able to tax us for petrol and diesel, so other means need to be looked into, no doubt.

    2. The Facts says:

      I think you mean window…

    3. GNewton says:

      @The Facts: yes, you are right, I meant windows tax (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Window_tax)

      Anyway, taxing fibre doesn’t make sense.

    4. Mike says:

      @Buggerlugz

      They may just slap a lithium battery disposal tax on electric car purchases.

  3. John H says:

    The company I worked for appealed every business rate using a specialist firm, won most of them too.

    1. A_Builder says:

      My experience is that the RVO’s calculations are all over the place.

      We had two offices in identical buildings next door to each other. One on the top floor and one on ground floor.

      The one on the ground floor had, initially half the rateable value of the top floor until we appealed the one for the top floor.

  4. Gary says:

    Inevitably with it being a government/taxation thing it’ll be such a conveluted process its no surprise, in fact I’d only be surprised if it was just BT that was making the appeal.

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