Hole-in-the-wall cash machines could leave a hole in the pockets of more than 10,000 stores if a trial beginning today decides to rule against retailers.
The appeal by Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Co-op and Cardtronics Europe looks to overturn the decision to charge separate business rates for hole-in-the-wall ATMs. The Altus Group estimates there are 15,422 ATMs affected by the decision in England and Wales.
If the retailers win, the Government could be forced to refund more than £200m in rates to those retailers providing the service. If the Government wins, retailers could receive bills for more than £10,000 from cash machine operators passing on the backdated rates.
Robert Hayton, head of UK business rates at Altus Group, said: “If the decision is upheld it is likely to make it more expensive for smaller independent retailers to offer free-to-use cash machines.”
Experts warned that though the trial may have begun, the issue is far from over. Colliers International’s head of business rates John Webber estimated it will take 18 months to resolve due to the likelihood of an appeal after the current court action.
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Hayton said that the case is similar to the staircase tax debacle, in that without political intervention it could be difficult to get the outcome businesses are hoping for.
A source within a leading cash machine provider previously told Retail Express that they had been holding off on sending out the bills for backdated rates until the outcome of the trial.
“We know that it can be hard for many shop owners to suddenly pay these bills, so we have been trying to find a solution to help many of our customers on an individual basis,” said one ATM operator spokesperson.
However, many retailers have reported receiving these claims already. Several told Retail Express that they had received bills for up to £17,000. Andrew Connolly from Connolly Spars in Wiltshire said he has received “a number of letters” demanding back payment of ATM business rates.
Another described the bills as a 'time bomb' for retailers yet to receive the news.
Retail Express showed several contracts between ATM operators and retailers to a legal professional who confirmed that the retailers were liable for all rates payable.
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