Our Ban Box Shifting Manifesto 

Closing Loopholes & Protecting Communities

Discover a critical issue affecting councils across England in this eye-opening video. Join us as we delve into the urgent necessity of banning Box Shifting and unravel its profound impact on our communities. Uncover the compelling reasons behind this crucial movement and be a part of the solution.


Making Headlines

Explore the media coverage and recognition we’ve garnered in the short time since our campaign launched. Dive into articles and papers from major news outlets and publications that have spotlighted our campaign.


Close empty property business rates relief loophole, say MPs

More than 30 MPs are calling for the government to tackle business rates avoidance in England by banning controversial “ box shifting” methods.


Close empty property business rates relief loophole, say MPs

More than 30 MPs are calling for the government to tackle business rates avoidance in England by banning controversial “ box shifting” methods.


MPs Urge Government to Target ‘Box-Shifting’ Landlords Avoiding Business Rates

More than 30 MPs have urged government to reform business rates avoidance in England by banning so-called “box shifting”.


Tired of empty shops? It’s time to ban box shifting

Sian Berry AM, Green London Assembly Member and Camden councillor, calls for an end to the use of the tax evasion technique known as ‘box shifting’.


MPs call for ban on ‘box shifting’ business rates loophole

More than 30 MPs have urged the government to ban controversial “box shifting” methods, which allow landlords to exploit


‘Box shifting’ loophole costing councils £250m a year

Councils in England could save £250m annually if a legal loophole that enables landlords to avoid business rates was closed, according to the campaign Ban Box Shifting.


What is box shifting?

Some landlords take advantage of a loophole in the law to obtain rate relief. They put boxes in an empty commercial space – then say the space is occupied for 13 weeks. The boxes are then removed, and the landlord gets 3 to 6 months’ empty rates relief. When the rates free period was over, they can again place boxes to restart the cycle, hence box shifting. Councils lost over two thirds of their rates income every time this cycle was repeated.

Last year, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced a Business Rates Avoidance and Evasion Consultation to explore the causes of, and potential measures to combat, avoidance, evasion, and poor rating agent behaviour within the business rates system, to protect essential funding for local services.

The outcome, while a footnote in the Councillor’s 2024 Spring Budget, made the following amendment:

From 1 April, landlords will need to wait 13 weeks, rather than 6, to claim empty rates exemption.

This marks a major victory for our campaign’s fight against intermittent occupation, such as through unethical methods like box shifting, as a tool for empty rates avoidance in England, bringing legislation closer to what has happened in Wales, where the required period of occupation to activate rates exemption is 6 months.

The Ban Box Shifting campaign – so far – has been an incredible success. With support from over 100 MPs and councillors, and several motions put forward in councils across England, we have brought box shifting to national and government attention. However, this is only the beginning. Other forms of rates avoidance, such as snail farming, need to be addressed, and to tackle this, we need to push for a one-year time limit on avoidance and properties left in limbo because of insolvent tenants, ensuring councils receive rates revenue and spaces are quickly reactivated.

We must also do more to promote ethical rates mitigation, where genuine charities delivering vital activities can occupy otherwise empty commercial premises and reduce business rates burden by qualifying for, and paying, 20% of the normal empty business rates charge.

IMPACT of the changes

What this means in effect for empty rates mitigation going forward?

Here’s a breakdown by experts in ethical rates mitigation, ASTOP Limited

Watch ASTOP’s summary of the changes and impacts on the empty rates mitigation options in England which are effective from the first of April 2024.

For a video specific to industrial spaces, click here


Want to Help Your Council Save Millions of Pounds? You Can!

Send a message to your local MP or councillor(s) using

Insert your post code and use the automated form – however, please note:

If you copy and paste directly from our proposed messaging, this will be picked up and your message may not be accepted. 

We recommend summarising or using some of the key points we have shared below in your messaging – however, as mentioned, please don’t copy + paste directly.

  • Box shifting is costing councils around £250 million annually.
  • Some property owners and landlords will use novel methods, like fish tanks and snail farms or place other items in the empty property to trigger rates avoidance.
  • England’s Government should extend the occupation period for rates exemption from six weeks to six months (like Scotland and Wales).
  • Ethical rates mitigation allows councils to offer organisations and charities support while also supporting their community.
  • The campaign ‘Ban Box Shifting’, has an Open Letter for Government requesting the matter to be taken seriously.
  • Please contact us if you would like to support the campaign:
Further information

The Welsh Government effectively stopped box shifting in Apr 2022. More information about this in the links below:


Ban Box Shifting

Dear Government,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our support for the new charity initiative, Ban Box Shifting, which aims to tackle the issue of business rates avoidance in England and save our councils an estimated £250 million annually. This is an important matter that affects our communities and public services, and we believe it is time to take action.

The practice of box shifting, whereby landlords and multi-chain operators exploit legal loopholes to trigger a three- or six-month rates-free period, is draining vital funds from our local authorities. It is estimated that this tactic costs councils £250 million per year, a sum that could be used to build 2,000 council homes, fund 150,000 hospital beds, or establish 12 new secondary schools.

It is time for England to follow in the footsteps of Scotland and Wales, both of which have already passed legislation to address this issue. We are urging the Government to consider the Ban Box Shifting five-point manifesto:

  1. Ban Box Shifting by extending the period of occupation which activates rates exemption from six weeks to six months
  2. Give councils more powers in deciding when empty rates relief can legitimately be granted
  3. Put a one-year time limit on avoidance and properties left in limbo because of insolvent tenants
  4. Remove the snail sham option in non-agricultural space (occupiers sometimes put snail farms or other similar species to claim a space is agricultural land)
  5. Promote ethical rates mitigation.

By extending the occupation period required for rates exemption and granting councils more authority to decide when relief can be provided, we can prevent businesses from exploiting loopholes for financial gain. Furthermore, implementing a one-year time limit on avoidance and removing sham options will provide additional safeguards against fraudulent practices.

We also advocate for the promotion of ethical rates mitigation, which involves offering rent-free spaces to charities. This sustainable solution benefits local communities, landlords, and charities, and is already recognised by some councils’ estates teams as a means to save money and support communities.

We firmly stand behind the Ban Box Shifting initiative and urge the Government to take action in addressing the issue of business rates avoidance. By doing so, we can save our councils millions of pounds, which can then be reinvested in vital public services for the betterment of our communities.


MPs & Councillors That Have Already Signed

Issy Cooke – (Greenwich) – Labour

Varlene Alexander – (Ealing) – Labour

Anthony Molloy – (Brent) – Labour

Yusuf Mukhtar – (Barking) – Labour

Andree Frieze – (Richmond) – Green

James Beckles – (Newham) – Labour

Carolyn Corben – (Newham) – Labour

Rob Nunney – (Manchester) – Green

Richard Silvester – (Bolton) – Labour

Sian Berry – (Camden) – Green

David Jenkins – (Leeds) – Labour

Paul Wray – (Leeds) – Labour

Kevin Ritchie – (Leeds) – Labour

Chloe Goldsmith – (Brighton) – Green

Alistair Chisholm – (Newcastle) – Labour

Alastair Binnie-Lubbock – (Hackney) – Green

Mark Chatfield – (Rutland) – Lib Dem

Graham Minshaw – (Cumberland) – Labour

Sara Muldowney – (Thurrock) – Labour

Megan Wright – (Bracknell Forest) – Labour

Joe Reilly – (New Forest) – Independent

Mike Stonard – (Norwich) – Labour

Paul Gibson – (Sunderland) – Lib Dem

Ashan Jeeawon – (Rother) – Independent

Minesh Parekh – (Sheffield) – Labour

Tim Wye – (Bristol) – Green

Vera Rider – (Cleveland) – Independent

Jo Bird – (Wirral) – Green

Andy Ketchin – (Exeter) – Green

Michael Carthew – (Solihull) – Lib Dem

Judith Grier – (Wirral) – Green

Tess Read – (Exeter) – Green

Andrew Brown – (Bristol) – Lib Dem

Kerry Pickett – (Brighton) – Green

Ruth George – (Derbyshire) – Labour

Jacob Taylor – (Brighton) – Labour

Tim Smith – (Rutland) – Lib Dem

Lucy Bywater – (Bedfordshire) – Green

Darren Hayday – (Buckinghamshire) – Independent

Mark Howard – (Windsor and Maidenhead) – Lib Dem

Gurch Singh – (Windsor and Maidenhead) – Lib Dem

Louis Stark – Herefordshire Council – Liberal Democrats

Geoff Brodie – (Isle of Wight) – Independent Labour

Graham Baker – (Blackpool) – Conservatives

Graham Chapman – (Nottingham) – Labour

Georgia Power – (Nottingham) – Labour

Zoe Garbett – (Hackney and London Mayoral Candidate for the Green Party 2024) – Green Party

Paul Bidwell – (Bracknell Forest) – Labour

Ria Patel – (Croydon) – Green Party

Nick Morphet – (Northumberland) – Green Party

Caritas Charles – (North Somerset) – Independent

Oliver Walters – (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole) – Lib Dem

Joe Lever – (Isle of Wight) – Green

Imogen Shepherd – Dubey (Wokingham) – Lib Dem

Charles Adams – (Bassetlaw) – Labour

Tracy Adams – (Devon) – Labour

Carol Whitton – (Devon) – Labour

Janice Johnson – (Rossendale) – Labour

Gill Westcott – (Mid-Devon) – Green

Anthony Skuse – (Wokingham) – Labour

Don Birch – (Norfolk) – Lib Dem

Alasdair Bruce – (East Devon) – Independent

Neil Buttle – (Derbyshire Dales) – Green

Simon Lytton – (Cherwell) – Lib Dem

Peter Lamb – (Crawley) – Labour

Karen Lewing – (Worcester) – Green

Mark Chilton – (Chichester) – Lib Dem

Graham Simpkins – (Westmorland & Furness) – Lib Dem

Neil Hughes – (Westmorland & Furness) – Lib Dem

Danny Lee – (Winchester) – Green 

Michele Gibson – (Spelthorne) – Lib Dem 

Richard Kirkby-Taylor – (Colchester) – Green 

Max Wilkinson – (Cheltenham) – Lib Dem 

Roger Lees – (South Staffordshire) – Conservative 

Ian Middleton – (Oxfordshire) – Green 

Alison Owen – (Barbegh) – Labour 

Donna Richardson – (Southend) – Labour 

Maureen McKay – (East Ayrshire) – Labour 

Theresa Burton – (Runnymede) – Lib Dem

John Turley – (Worthing) – Labour

Sue Mallender – (Rushcliffe) – Green

Angela Lawrence – (West Lindsey) – Conservative

Adam Monk – (South Gloucestershire) – Labour

Marina Asvachin  – (Devon County Council) – Labour

Maximilian Czekalski – (Woolston) – Labour

Sophie Bell – (Milton Keynes) – Lib Dem

Tony Gould – (Ipswich) – Conservative

Alec Sandiford – (Stafford) – Lib Dem

Cathy Morgan – (Sevenoaks) – Conservative

Frances Victory – (Malvern Hills) – Green

Stephen Thompson – (Maidstone) – Green

Andrew McDermid – (Forest of Dean) – Green

David Moore – (Newark & Sherwood) – Independent

Vikki Slade – (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole) – Lib Dem

Sarah Pankhurst – (Independent) – Fareham

Ian James – (East Hampshire) – Green

Ros Jackson – (East Lindsey) – Labour

Nick Cox – (East Hertfordshire) – Green

James Lawrence – (Epsom & Ewell) – Lib Dem

Total Councillors Signed = 101

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