The property must be occupied, in order to be rateable. The primary liability for the rates, rests with the occupier. Prior to July 2014, any person in occupation could be made liable in respect of rates made within the previous two years. 2014 legislation puts the onus of discharging rates on the owner, where there is a change in occupier.
The rate is payable by the person in occupation, although other parties can be deemed liable, if there is no such person. The occupier is the person who has the immediate use and enjoyment of the property.
If a property is vacant, the rate is levied on the owner. A refund may be available if it is unoccupied for the purpose of additions, alterations and repair or because its owner is bona fide, unable to obtain a tenant at reasonable rent. The refund is 1/12 per month during occupation. The 2014 Act reduces vacancy relief to 50% of the liability.
In order to be a rateable occupier, the occupation must generally be exclusive to the occupier.The occupier is every person who has the immediate use or enjoyment of the premises. It must be of value and benefit to the occupier. The right must be exclusive right and be such as to entitle the occupier to exclude others.
It is presumed that the owner is in beneficial occupation. Where more than one person has immediate use and enjoyment of the property, one or more may be in paramount occupation.
The occupation may be of some benefit or value. The occupation must be permanent in the sense that it must not be merely transient; this requires a minimal degree of permanence.
A short-term letting or temporary occupation will usually be sufficient.It must not be too transient.
Generally, the owners will be in beneficial occupation. If not, the presumption may be rebutted. Intention of future occupation is not sufficient in itself if there has been no actual occupation.
However, tf the premises is unoccupied when the rate is made, the rate may be assessed on the owner by statutory provision. Certain provisions apply where there is a change in occupation whihc may place liability on the successor or landlord, even if the property is not occupied by the former occupier.
Exclusive possession in the sense of a lease is not necessarily required. The premises must be capable of some beneficial occupation, although this need not be significant.
Transient occupation would not be enough to make a property “occupied” for rating purposes. A licensee may be liable to rates if his is (in fact) in exclusive possession or has the paramount right.
Rates may be levied on an unoccupied property by statutory provision. A partial or full remission may be available.
Rateable property includes any land and buildings, but does not include land used for no purpose whatsoever. Mines, quarries, easements and similar rights are liable for rates. Rates applies to infrastructure such as water, gas, electricity mains. This includes transmission systems and associated physical infrastructure. They were rated as easements, although they are now rated on a single block basis.
Rateable property includes the following
- land used or developed for any purposes and any constructions fixed to it,
- railways, tramways,
- harbours, piers and docks,
- mines, quarries, pits,
- right of fishery, other profit from pond, tows, easement,
- rights to drill and remove petroleum,
- canals, navigations,
- advertising stations,
- electricity generating stations including ancillary plants etc.
- The entire networks of electricity, telecommunications providers.
The property must be occupied such as to constitute rateable occupation. It may be unoccupied but capable of rateable occupation.
Basis of Valuation
Historically, valuation was based on the annual value of the property. The Valuation Act, 1852 provided that land was to be valued by reference for the average price of agricultural produce.
The Valuation Act, 2001 has modernised the basis of valuation of property. Value is to be taken by estimating the net annual value of the property. This is the rent at which it might reasonably be expected to be let out. It is assumed that the lease is one under which the tenant bears the repairs, insurance and other expenses.
All plant and equipment may be added to the value of property and become rateable. Plant, in this context, includes any fixture or structure attached to the property. Certain machinery may come within the definition of plant. It may be a fixture or structure associated with a premises which although free standing, is of a size, weight and construction such as to be permanent or semi-permanent.
Account is to be taken of any “plant” on the property, cables, pipelines and equivalent infrastructure. A wide range of plant and equipment is potentially rateable. Plant, in the rating context, includes all things affixed to the property.
Plant means any fixture or structure attached to or integrated into premises or which is used for any purpose of a permanent or semi-permanent nature. It may be a fixture or structure associated with the premises. It may be a freestanding item whose size, weight and construction is such as to be permanent or semi-permanent. It will therefore capture certain types of machinery and equipment.
- all fixed furnaces, boilers, ovens and kilns;
- all ponds and reservoirs;
- constructions” affixed to the premises comprising a mill, manufactory or building (whether on or below the ground) and used for the containment of a substance or for the transmission of a substance or electric current.
- It includes any such constructions which are designed or used primarily for storage or containment (whether or not the purpose of such containment is to allow a natural or a chemical process to take place). It excludes any such constructions which are designed or used primarily to induce a process of change in the substance contained or transmitted.
Agricultural land used for tillage, meadow, pasture, horticulture, forestry, outdoor surfaces, farm buildings, buildings used for fur farming and training of bloodstock are outside the scope of rates
Extensive exemptions from rates had been granted by statute for agricultural land . Rates ceased to be chargeable on agricultural land after a Supreme Court ruling that the method of assessment was arbitrary and unconstitutional, being largely based on the nineteenth century Griffith’s Valuation..
The charge to rates on agricultural land was not replaced. This further narrowed the rates tax base, and by default, rates remained as a charge, on “commercial” property only.
Land used for “charitable” purposes are exempt. See the section on the legal definition of a charity. Charitable purposes includes use for not for profit educational, healthcare, religious purposes and similar public benefit purposes generally. There are statutory exemptions for a range of land used for similar purposes. The exemption covers most of the following categories of building, when used on a not for profit basis
- burial grounds and crematoriums;
- schools and buildings used for educational purposes (on a not for profit basis with expenses defrayed by the Exchequer).
- places of worship;
- hospitals and infirmaries; (on a not for profit basis with expenses defrayed by the Exchequer);
- premises used for the care of sick, elderly, handicapped or disabled persons on a not for profit basis (with expenses defrayed from Exchequer (but not otherwise);
- art galleries, museums, national monuments open for the public not established for the purpose of making a profit;
- community halls;
- buildings used by a society for the advancement of science or the arts;
- exemption under various urban renewal incentive schemes in designated areas; the exemption from rates is or a number of years, typically up to 10 years.
The following categories of property are not rateable:
- domestic premises,
- agricultural land used for tillage, meadow, pasture, horticulture, forestry, outdoor surfaces, farm buildings, buildings used for fur farming and training of bloodstock;
- State property This covers lands occupied by a Minister for State, Defence Forces Garda Siochana;
- mines until seven years after opening;
- oil wells until twenty years after opening;
- buoys, beacons, lighthouses,
- land used for sport,
- land use for forestry,
- farm buildings,
- buildings used for public worship, religious worship,
- lands used by hospitals,
- ground lands used as schools, college, universities etc.
- galleries, museums, parks, national monuments;
- certain cultural property occupied by museums, galleries, arts council, heritage council and certain other designated bodies;
- lands used for the care of elderly or handicapped or disabled persons;
- community hall;
- lands occupied by a charitable organisation or a profit not established, affairs which are not conducted for the purpose of making a private profit where the principal activity of which is the conservation of ; natural and built
- endowments and the land, building is used exclusively for the purpose of that activity;
- land used by a societies for the advancement of science, literature or the fine arts;
- any turf, bog or turf bank for the purpose of cutting turf.
Local authorities levy rates on the occupiers of rateable property (rateable property as identified in the Valuation Acts 2001-2015). Commercial rates liability is calculated by multiplying the valuation determined by the Commissioner of Valuation by the Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) adopted by the local authority at its annual budget meeting.
The contents of a rate book prepared by a local authority may be stored electronically and may be published on the internet.
The 2019 Act provides local authorities with the power to establish a database of rateable property and with the power to delegate this function to the Local Government Management Agency. The database shall include the following information in respect of each rateable property:
- the name of the occupier of the rateable property;
- the address of the rateable property;
- any unique reference number assigned in respect of the rateable property;
- the nature of the business undertaken at the rateable property;
- any other information in relation to the property that is considered appropriate by a local authority for the purposes of the performance of its functions under this Act.
A local authority shall, upon becoming aware that any particular entered in the database maintained by it under this section is incorrect or has ceased to be correct, make such alterations in the database as it considers necessary.