Last edited 21 Oct 2020

Rates for construction and buildings

The term ‘rates’ is most commonly used to refer to a type of property tax in the United Kingdom that is used to fund local government.

Historically, rates were established by the Poor Law Act 1601, with rates on residential properties based on their nominal rental value. This was assessed in revaluations which were held periodically. These rates were abolished in England, Scotland and Wales in 1990 and replaced, first with the widely-unpopular Community Charge (or ‘poll tax’) and then the council tax. Unlike the poll tax, in which a fixed tax was set for everyone within a council area, the council tax is based on the estimated market value of property set in bands of incremental value.

Domestic rates remain the form of local government taxation in Northern Ireland and consist of a regional rate (set by the Northern Ireland Assembly) and the district rate (set by district councils).

Business rates are a local tax paid by the occupiers of non-domestic property in England and Wales. Business rates are calculated and collected by local authorities. They are put in a central pool and then redistributed back to local authorities to help pay for local services. For more information, see Business rates.

The term ‘rates’ has many other applications in construction.

The term ‘hourly rate’ refers to the amount of remuneration a worker receives for each hour that they work.

This often informs a schedule of rates. In its most simple form, a schedule of rates can be a list in a contract setting out the staff, labour and plant hire rates the contractor will use for pricing cost reimbursable instructed daywork. However, on a much larger scale, a 'schedule of rates term contract', 'term contract' or 'measured term contract' may be used when the nature of work required is known but it cannot be quantified, or if continuity of programme cannot be determined.

For more information, see Schedule of rates.

According to NRM1: Order of cost estimating and cost planning for capital building work, the term ‘unit rate(s)’ means:

‘…the monetary rate applied to an element, sub-element or component per unit of measurement (e.g. cost per m, cost per m2 and cost per m3).

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