FREE cash machines at corner shops could disappear if a legal ruling upholds a Government decision to slap a £400million business rates bill on ATMs.
Shopkeepers have mounted legal action against the Government’s decision in 2013, saying a cash machine built into the front of a shop should have a separate extra rates bill.
This saw bills sent to thousands of stores in 2014, which were backdated four years.
This month’s controversial business rates changes have seen hefty bill hikes for more than 14,000 cash machines for the next five years.
It is costing retailers £39.3million – or nearly £2,800 a year on average for each ATM.
The long-running case has now reached the Upper Tribunal and the Courts Service said a judgment was due “shortly”.
If successful, shops could receive a reprieve on more than £400million of business rates bills.
But if the ruling does not go in the sector’s favour, there are concerns that small shops and independent petrol forecourts may be forced to close ATMs or start charging for cash withdrawals.
The figures from rents and rates specialists CVS show the number of cash machines being liable for business rates has surged from 3,140 in 2010 to 14,068 this year.
Mark Rigby, chief executive of CVS, said charging rates on cash machines was “nothing more than a stealth tax”. He said: “With banks continuing to close branches at an alarming rate, access to cash from retail sites is more important than ever before.
“Should the approach of the Government’s agency be upheld and cash machines removed from service, villages and communities will be deprived of convenient access to cash local people need and deserve.”