Regulator signs anti-business rates avoidance agreements with three other bodies

The Charity Commission has signed memorandums of understanding with Oxford City Council, Broxbourne Borough Council and the Kent Intelligence Network

Business rates: move to stop avoidance
Business rates: move to stop avoidance

The Charity Commission has signed agreements with two local authorities and a Kent-based anti-fraud network as part of a pilot project designed to clamp down on business rates avoidance.

In separate memorandums of understanding published yesterday, the commission agreed to the two-way sharing of information and technical expertise with Oxford City Council, Broxbourne Borough Council and the Kent Intelligence Network.

The commission will be able to carry out coordinated operations looking into people or charities with the individual councils and the network.

The agreements will focus on helping councils crack down on business rates avoidance: where, for example, a landlord might rent out a commercial property at a peppercorn rent to a charity in order to take advantage of the 80 per cent reduction in business rates charities receive.

As part of the new agreements, the commission and each other organisation will appoint a staff member to be a specific point of contact, and they will meet once a year.

A spokesman for the commission said: "The commission is exploring ways of working more closely with local authorities to tackle misconduct and mismanagement by charities, particularly regarding business rates avoidance. These MoUs are part of that pilot work."

The commission and the Information Commissioner's Office have also agreed to share with each other draft guidance documents that touch on both organisations’ regulatory areas before publication.

In a memorandum of understanding that lays out the relationship between the commission and the ICO, published yesterday, the two regulators agreed to meet at least once a year to discuss any issues of common regulatory interest.

They have also agreed to consult one another at an early stage on any regulatory issues that might have "significant implications" for the other organisation.

The document says that, as part of the cooperation between each pair of organisations, there is an agreement to "share (for comment) at an early stage draft documents (such as consultation papers, guidance and briefings) that may impact on the other's objectives and functions".

The commission has also said it will liaise with the ICO about any complaint concerning issues relevant to data-protection laws and refer the matter to the ICO if it is appropriate.

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