The long-running dispute over the rating of ATM machines is over following a ruling today (20th May) by the UK Supreme Court on whether ATM facilities, both inside and outside of
stores, should be separately assessed for business rates. The answer is no.
A panel of five justices dismissed the Government’s appeal and upheld the Court of Appeal decision from November 2018.
The decision will be welcomed by retailers large and small who will now look to recover the refunds in business rates paid on ATM sites since 2010 - variously estimated at anything up to £500m.
PRA chairman Brian Madderson said: “We are delighted that the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of retailers, meaning that they will now be rightly owed around £500 million in business rates refunds,
"Before this decision, ATMs that were situated either inside or outside of existing retailers, such as supermarkets and petrol filling stations, faced separate business rate payments to the rates already paid by the retailer. The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has repeatedly appealed legal challenges to this, but the Supreme Court’s decision means that the many millions that have already been paid in rates for those ATMs will likely be refunded to either the property owner, the ATM provider, or a combination of both."
The PRA has been fervently campaigning for many years on this issue, with correspondence and meetings with MPs, ministers and the Treasury.
Madderson continued: “This decision is good news going forward, as it sets a very important precedent for rates on other third-party equipment on petrol forecourts, such as EV charging points, air lines and vacuums – issues that the PRA has also been closely involved with Government in.
“Hopefully we will be able to see more clarity come out on these issues in light of today’s decision and be able to combat complicated and unnecessary rates at our members.”
ACS chief executive James Lowman who welcomed the ruling, said: “This is a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court which will have huge impact on our sector and will help maintain widespread access to cash. Local shops provide the communities that they serve with vital services, including access to cash, but it had become increasingly difficult for retailers to host ATMs with the high cost of business rates and cuts to interchange fees.
“The Government now needs to implement the Supreme Court ruling by setting up a simple refund process which ensures full compensation is paid to all retailers who have been subject to wrongful business rates bills for ATMs”.
Figures from the 2019 Local Shop Report show that 46% of convenience stores have a free-to-use cash machine, with 18% having to pay to use machine.
ATM supplier Cardtronics was among many companies – including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op - that pursued the appeal.
Emily Wood, partner at law firm DMH Stallard and Head of the Real Estate Dispute Resolution team, which represented Cardtronics throughout the litigation said: “We have seen high streets across the country begin to struggle to survive, right through to now where the current pandemic has closed whole towns and isolated communities. As we move out of lockdown, it’s essential that all that can be done is done, to open these high streets up and provide services to rural communities.
“Retaining the imposition of rates on ATMs would have had huge ramifications not only for the industry, but the provision of available cash to spend locally and where needed. More so than ever, in the current climate, the right decision has been upheld by the Court.”
Marc Terry, international managing director of Cardtronics, said: "We welcome today’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the ATM business rates ruling. This decision will benefit small businesses and local high streets, and the vital role they will play in the UK economy once the current lockdown has been lifted.
"With banks continuing to withdraw from the high street, the general public relies on the vital basic banking services that independent ATMs in shops and supermarkets provide. Cardtronics’ data shows that the vast majority of ATM users spend the money they withdraw in the store which hosts the machine.
"In today’s challenging business environment, this additional footfall will be a vital contributor to the survival of many of our local high street businesses. Banks do not pay separate business rates on their branch ATMs, and this decision means that independent through-the-wall ATMs, which are a part of the convenience offering for high street shops, are treated the same way.”