Following the broadband money

VOA seeks info on wireless broadband networks – to tax them

with 7 comments

The Broadband Stakeholders Group is hosting a meeting at which the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) will set out its views on the potential application of the non-domestic rating regime (aka ‘business rates’) to wireless broadband network infrastructure.

This meeting marks the start of a public consultation before the VOA publishes a Practice Note to clarify the valuation for non-domestic rates of wireless broadband network infrastructure. It is looking for inputs from industry on rental values and costs of installation.

The meeting comes less than a month after Vfast withdrew its proposal for a wireless broadband network for Tunbridge Wells, saying the VOA had told it the scheme would be subject to business rates taxes.

The VOA is the same organisation that saw fit to subject lit fibre to business rates and introduce three different ways of valuing it, two of which favour BT and Virgin Media. A recent Ofcom report on the market for >1Gbps services found the fibre tax is a serious inhibitor for investment.

Alan Bradford, head of telecoms at the VOA, will provide an update at the BSG meeting and there will be time for Q&A.

The BSG says this meeting is the VOA’s first opportunity to begin this industry consultation. However, Vfast’s reaction to its meeting with the VOA suggests that the VOA has already made up its mind to tax wireless networks. It is now just trying to fix the rate.

The meeting will take place from 10.00 to 12.00 on Monday 22 April at the Intellect offices, Russell Square House, 10-12 Russell Square, London WC1B 5EE.

The BSG thinks this will interest mobile operators, fixed wireless providers and other stakeholders with an interest in the non-domestic rating regime.

RSVP to by Tuesday 16 April.  Places are limited so early registration is advised.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/04/05 at 07:46

7 Responses

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  1. Ian,

    Great article on a murky and ill-informed area of taxation from the VOA. Are there any (trustworthy) studies of other EU countries that tax internet/broadband infrastructure in this way? Do you have any links to definitive documents from the VOA on what attracts business rates and what doesn’t?

    This must surely end up as a Commons petition to help the government avoid appearing foolish around 2015 – tax’ing a GDP increasing technology market, only to give it back via BDUK and other grant mechanisms. Are there published figures stating income from the “fibre tax”, so we can see the difference between £830m of BDUK funding, estimated increase in GDP through better connectivity, and the rates income to the treasury? Important to understand the balance sheet that is in play here.

    This is a clear own goal from government and a “must try harder” from HMRC, surely?



    2013/04/05 at 11:04

  2. The problem with this “wireless tax” is also that the VOA themselves don’t even seem to know what, if anything, is going to change and the ISPs we spoke to in early March weren’t any wiser. It was a more a case that they thought something was going to be changed but nobody seemed to have any clear idea of what would happen.. even the VOA.

    This issue also cropped up in 2010 and as usual the VOA’s vague/unique definitions and confusing explanations don’t make it easy to know the correct picture and impact. We’re still waiting to get a clearer picture of the situation before writing about it as at present everything is far too confused.

    Mark –

    Mark (ISPreview)

    2013/04/05 at 11:26

  3. I half agree. See my latest post

    The “correct” (i.e. quicker, cheaper and easier) approach is to “play by the VOA rules” and use a couple of well-chosen and published “appeals” to demonstrate that the “correct” value, in line with that for the equivalant components of the BT network, is the square root of bugger all. But that requires those who want this to happen to not only work together but to also show each other, and the valuation office, their cards. Meanwhile all the incumbents have to do is to ensure they do not.

    Philip Virgo

    2013/04/05 at 12:27

  4. As this is related to the receipt of electromagnetic radiation can we next expect a tax on light based on the number of windows in a house?


    2013/04/05 at 14:45

  5. Indeed, Somerset, but not if the house is owned by BT, of course.


    2013/04/05 at 16:20

  6. […] the action to be taken with regard to business rates I disagree, however, with Ian. Trying to get rid of business rates at a time when the Chancellor is desperate for revenue is not the answer. It would be far more effective to […]

  7. […] that the Valuation Office Agency is assessing how it plans to tax wireless broadband infrastructure prompted one Br0kenTeleph0n3 reader to ask the European Commission what it thinks of […]

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