The VOA website contains case study examples and online assessment tool to help one assess whether business rates are likely, but there is no definitive list of guidelines."The VOA must consider the different facts applying in each case and does not operate according to a rigid set of requirements," says a VOA spokesperson.
This states, "Many small businesses and other non-residential uses are started by people working in their own homes, and technological innovations are likely to increase the incidence of home-working.
Home-working does not necessarily require planning permission.
If any room is used exclusively for business or has been modified to enable work to take place, the local council is likely to charge business rates.
The remainder of the property will still be liable for council tax, with possible implications on ones council tax band.
Those considering working from home are advised to seek the advice of their local planning authority at an early stage.
"Once the business or non-residential use of the property ceases to be ancillary to its use as a single dwelling because, for example, the business has grown and the use of the dwelling for activities related to the business has intensified, a material change of use for which planning permission is required is likely to have taken place.Whatever business you carry out from your home, whether it involves using part of it as a bed-sit or for "bed and breakfast" accommodation, using a room as your personal office, providing a childminding service, using rooms for hairdressing, dressmaking or music teaching, or using buildings in the garden for repairing cars or storing goods connected with a business - the key test is: is it still mainly a home or has it become business premises?Anyone starting a new business from home needs to allow three months to ensure all the planning, legal and licensing issues are dealt with before they can even begin trading, according to Business Link advisor Andy Berrow.Over 500,000 people set up their own business every year, according to Stephen Alambritis of the Federation of Small Business, with "the vast majority" doing so from home.But establishing their business and attracting customers can be more straightforward than overcoming the legislative barriers.Social housing tenants, for example, are explicitly barred from starting up a business at home.Entrepreneurs working from home on any scale are advised by Business Link to check with their mortgage lender, freeholder or landlord. As many as eighty percent ignore the requirement to avoid the bureaucracy and extra costs involved, according to Stephen Alambritis."The likelihood of there having been such a material change of use may be indicated where the business or non-residential use generates visitors, traffic, noise or fumes over and above what might be expected if the property were in use as a single dwelling without any ancillary use.Local planning authorities should take steps to ensure that such developments are effectively controlled, and should be prepared to refuse planning permission or to use their enforcement powers where appropriate." So in theory, a home-based business is exempt from planning permission if the property is used mainly as a private residence, the sort of activities are usual in a residential area and the traffic and visitor levels remain at the current level and do not disturb the neighbours.But many entrepreneurs operate "below the treeline" to avoid the cost, complication and potential barriers."More than half of all the self-employed people who work from home will neglect to tell their insurance company," says Stephen Alambritis, "and won't do so until their sales reach the point where they are obliged to register for VAT and they become an 'official business." PAYING BUSINESS RATES These administrative tasks are relatively straightforward, however, compared with the confusing red tape laid down by government and its various agencies.