It is a principle of the law relating to the payment of rates that properties are rateable unless specifically exempted. Under the Valuation Act 2001 only certain limited exemptions were available to Charities and Charitable Organisations as reflected in several decisions of the Valuation Tribunal.  In particular, religious Charitable Organisations could only avail of an exemption where the building or part of a building was used exclusively for the purposes of public religious worship.  Although there was an exemption for lands or buildings occupied by a Charitable Organisation using same exclusively for charitable purposes, what constituted a “Charitable Organisation” was defined and interpreted narrowly, advancement of religion not being considered as a basis for exemption unless it involved public worship.  The definition of a “Charitable Organisation” was recently amended by the Valuation (Amendment) Act 2015 (the 2015 Act) which now defines a “Charitable Organisation” by reference to Registered Charities under the Charities Act 2009 (the 2009 Act).

Following the introduction of the 2015 Act the Jesuit Missions Trust sought an exemption from Rates on the basis that it was a Charitable Organisation, a position opposed by the Commissioner of Valuations. Upon appeal, the Valuation Appeals Tribunal held in favour of the Jesuit Mission Trust, determining that advancement of religion was covered under the definition of a Charitable Organisation introduced in 2015, reference being required to the 2009 Act.   Charities for the advancement of religion and those using land exclusively for charitable purposes (otherwise than for private profit) may now, depending on the facts of their particular case, be able to avail of a broader exemption from rates and, as such, should review their position regarding their activities and the payment of rates.

The Jesuit Mission Trust was represented by O’Connor Solicitors, Mr. Paul Gallagher, S.C., Mr. Jonathan Miller, B.L., and advised by Messrs. GVA Donal O’Buachalla Limited.


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