POLMONT retailer Alan McGonigle is preparing to rip out his store’s recently installed air conditioning units to protect his business from an exorbitant business rates rise.
McGonigle – who operates a Premier store on the town’s high street – previously paid no rates as his store was under the £15,000 rateable value threshold. However, the installation of an air conditioning unit has bumped his rateable value over the payment line leaving him liable for thousands.
“What was unknown to me was if you put air conditioning in your shop in Falkirk they class it as an upgrade to your property,” said McGonigle.
“They valued the upgrade at £748. I asked how that worked and was told if I left my shop, with the air conditioning it would get more in rent. I’m not renting out my shop.”
In the recent rateable value revaluation, which came into force last month, Scottish Assessors increased the Polmont store’s rateable value from £12,700 to £15,500.
This new figure, combined with a hike in rateable value for McGonigle’s Post Office ATM, has left the retailer on the hook for a large sum.
“You wouldn’t believe it. I’ve got to take the air conditioning out the shop to save myself £12,000,” he said.
“Nobody believes me. It’s a farce. An absolute farce. What’s worse, I’ve spoken to the assessor and asked him to confirm if I take the air conditioning out of the shop I’ll be back under £15,000.
“His words were ‘I’m not here to save you money. I can’t tell you ‘till you do it’.”
McGonigle’s rates headache has been compounded by the closure of a Bank of Scotland in Polmont, which has led to an increase in transactions at his ATM, pushing the rateable value of the machine up one category.
Under Scottish Assessor guidelines, ATMs are assessed based largely on the number of transactions carried out over a one year period.
McGonigle’s machine previously occupied band E, with a rateable value of £2,800, but the increase in transactions following the town’s bank closure has nudged the machine into band F, with a rateable value of £4,875.
McGonigle said that despite the machine getting busier he didn’t get any more money for it.
“I get £3,600 a year for the machine and I’ve had it for eight years,” he said.
While McGonigle has been urged by locals and councillors to appeal his rateable value, the process for doing so has also left the retailer in a bind.
“The problem with appealing is I have to pay the rates and then appeal. If I take the air conditioning out first and appeal and don’t win the appeal, it’ll cost me £500 to put it back in. That’s £1,000 out of my pocket for nothing. It’s just hassle.”
Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale said Alan McGonigle’s situation is “more evidence that the business rates system isn’t fit for purpose, is too expensive, and that it penalises firms that invest in improving their premises.”
Lonsdale added that local authorities like Falkirk “ought to be using their existing powers to reduce business rates to firms in their area”.