Do I have to pay business rates for storage?

Every business strives to keep costs low. Whether it’s wages, utilities, rent or advertising, the vast majority of businesses have to make sure they cover these costs at the end of each month. One cost that unites all businesses – no matter the size or sector – is tax.

As Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote: “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.  

While taxation on businesses is without doubt a certainty in the modern world, there are ways that businesses can reduce their tax bill with the help of a storage facility.

To be clear, the advice in the following article is all legally above board and will not leave you in hot water with the Inland Revenue, if followed correctly.     

So, do you have to pay business rates for storage?

The short answer is – no. This is because the Valuation Office Agency (which gives the government property advice when it comes to taxation) says that the tax burden falls on the self storage facility itself.

The VOA says: “We normally assess self storage facilities as a warehouse and the operator of the self storage facility will generally be liable for the payment of rates.”

If you’re unsure whether your business qualifies for business rate relief, contact your local council.

What about VAT?

Good question – it’s true that the Finance Act 2012 introduced VAT on storage space. This brought the growing self storage industry in line with more traditional storage suppliers like removal companies, who were already paying VAT on their supplies of storage.

Now, while this expansion of VAT in storage has pushed up prices for domestic storage users, businesses are able to claim it back.

VAT can typically be reclaimed on goods and services that are used solely for business reasons. That means you can’t fill up a storage unit with personal belongings and then request the VAT back on your storage bill. If your storage items have nothing to do with your business then I’m afraid you’re just going to have to bite that VAT bullet.

Storage Tax Tip

Always remember to keep any business records relating to tax in a safe space that is easily accessible. If you’re using a self storage facility for business purposes, you will need to support your claim for VAT relief with the appropriate documents.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to organising and storing documents is: if you’re unsure of the importance of a document, keep hold of it. An extra bit of paperwork is not going to take up that much space while a lost or destroyed important document will likely lead to long delays and added costs, something that no business needs.

Everything else will need to be securely shredded to ensure no confidential documents fall into the wrong hands.

How to keep your business documents safe

Self storage facilities are not just a great way to avoid business rates and lower your tax bill, they can also ensure your business documents are safe and your company is fully GDPR compliant.

At Flexible Storage, as well as accessible and cost-effective self storage services, we also offer GDPR compliant document storage services too. Keep your costs down and your business documents secure at our professional self storage facility. Get in touch today to find out more.

“Going Once. Twice. SOLD!” – Storage Auctions in the UK

Have you ever wondered what happens to the contents of storage units when their owners abandon them or default on rent payments?

It’s not a common occurrence but, from time to time, self storage facilities find themselves lumbered with the abandoned belongings of ex-customers, despite persistent efforts to contact their owners.

 In these situations the contents of the storage units need to be removed so that the storage facility can let the space out to new customers. This process can be very time-consuming and the costs of clearance and disposal only add to the financial losses of the already unpaid rental bills.

However, there are ways for storage facilities to limit the amount of financial damage they sustain in these situations. In this article, we’ll take a look at an innovative yet misunderstood solution that has grown in popularity over recent years, one that has crossed the Atlantic on a wave of TV success.

Storage Unit Auctions As A Last Resort

Mostly due to the success of shows such as Storage Wars and Storage Hunters UK, there has been a growing interest in the world of abandoned self storage units in the UK. While these TV shows are no doubt entertaining, they don’t accurately reflect what typically happens to deserted units in the UK.

In the first instance, these shows pit a group of potential buyers against each other as they vie for the contents of around five storage units per episode. That’s a lot of abandoned storage units. In reality, most storage facilities may only have to deal with one or two deserted units per year, and many will go years without having to deal with any.

It’s not surprising really when you consider that people care a lot about the items them keep in storage units, so naturally they don’t want to lose them. However, in rare circumstances and for various reasons, storage facilities may have no choice but to reclaim the abandoned unit.

In the majority of cases though, self storage facilities will make every effort to contact the owner of the storage items. This grace period can be anything between ten days to three months, and will typically involve a letter being sent by recorded delivery to both the customer’s main and alternate address.

While it is very rare for storage facilities to resort to getting rid of people’s abandoned belongings, it can sometimes be the only recourse. Which brings us to…

Abandoned Storage Unit Auctions in the UK

 After the grace period has ended and the storage facility’s letters, emails and calls have gone unanswered, they can regain access to the unit to assess the contents. Depending on the facilities general policy and the value of the items, the storage facility may simply dispose of the contents or put them up for sale to cover their losses (this is known as ’lien’ in legal terms).

Here is where we see another difference with the TV shows. While the show depicts auction-bidders standing outside a locked unit, loudly speculating and bidding on its mysterious contents, the reality in the UK is a little less dramatic.

Firstly, storage unit auctions are, for the most part, conducted online, typically on auction sites such as Ebay. Some facilities may even have mailing lists of prospective bidders who they can alert when a storage unit comes up for sale.

While the storage facility can choose to keep the contents of the unit a mystery, most will upload pictures of the contents or even list the storage items one-by-one. Not quite the tension that TV producers are looking for!

Personal Data and Privacy Concerns

 Before a storage unit (or any items therein) is sold, storage facility staff will inspect the contents to ensure that all confidential information has been removed. This may include documents, photos, IDs, CDs, computers or any other items that could be or hold personal data.

 These sensitive items will either be forwarded on to the previous customer or, if they are still unresponsive, will be securely destroyed to ensure that data protection laws and GDPR regulations are upheld. The storage facility should also retain a certificate of destruction that can be presented to the previous owner or any government inspectors on request.

Avoid This Situation With A Reliable, Cost-Effective Storage Facility

 While storage units are occasionally abandoned and some customers may default on rent payments, the reality is that the vast majority of these situations could be avoided with proper communication and an adaptable storage company.

 At Flexible Storage, we go the extra mile to build relationships with our customers to ensure that they receive the best possible service. We regularly remind customers to check their contact information is up-to-date, as well as keep our prices as competitive as possible so that our units are affordable for all. We have a multitude of self storage services available to ensure you’re only paying for the storage you need. Contact our friendly team today for a free consultation on your storage needs.

Is There Still a Demand for Secure Off-Site Document Storage?

Do people even use paper any more? This question could come from the child who’s too small to hold a tablet or that CEO who gets a buzz out of, well – buzzwords.

Yes, we know the benefits of a paperless office and cloud-based storage. But, many businesses still rely on off-site document storage to safeguard critical information. There may be rumours of industries across the board embracing all things paperless. Forgive the pun, but experts say those rumours are paper-thin. In fact, as of 2017, over 15 trillion pages are printed globally each year, according to Andrew Morrison, managing director at Xerox UK and Ireland.

Overall, the global market for document storage is growing. According to the recent Document Management Software Market 2019 Global Trend, the market is expected to be worth $960 million by the end of 2025.

Paper is necessary for many industries

The demand to ditch paper documents in favour of digital copies is growing. However, there are industries that simply must hang onto their paper documents. The first example that comes to mind is the legal sector. A large number of documents change hands every day in the legal sector. These can range from wills and birth certificates to contracts and property deeds. It goes without saying that any lawyer worth their salt won’t accept a scanned copy. These documents are incredibly valuable, so as long as the world needs solicitors there will be a demand for secure document storage.

Law is just one of many sectors that need to keep paper documents close to hand. Healthcare is another prominent example. The average hospital or surgery is teeming with documents such as test results and patient records. We’re sure we don’t need to fill you in on the sacred covenant of doctor-patient confidentiality. Anything containing sensitive information about a person’s medical history needs to be kept under lock and key. All of this important paper needs to be stored somewhere – stat.

Data protection and storage of documents

You would think that many businesses understand the importance of a cast-iron document storage policy. Countless hours can be wasted sifting through reams of paper to find a certain file. Despite this, a recent survey conducted by Cleardata revealed that many SMEs are relying on a manner of half-baked storage solutions:

  • 44% of businesses admitted to storing documents in lock-ups
  • 22% store their documents in basements or lofts
  • 17% leave their paperwork in sheds

 It turns out only 33% of businesses using a purpose-built facility for storage. This statistic is particularly worrying, considering the standards for document storage outlined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). We don’t tend to consider paper copies when we talk about data protection. This means the secure storage of paper documents is often overlooked. Nevertheless, the hefty fines (which could total as much as £20m) for GDPR non-compliance apply just as much to paper documents as they do to digital records.

 GDPR dictates that documents must not only be kept securely, they also need to be accessible. One of the key components of GDPR is the right to erasure.” Organisations must be completely transparent about the information they keep on a person. They must also comply with requests to destroy information if they do not have a legitimate reason to store it. Without a clear-cut document storage system, finding this information is sure to be a time-consuming process.

Cloud storage has security risks

GDPR was implemented in May 2018, a time of peak concern for cybersecurity. Last year saw a series of cataclysmic data breaches, affecting high-profile organisations from British Airways to T-Mobile. There are a number of reasons behind data breaches, and some are due to human error. However, the unfortunate reality is no matter how advanced security protocols become, cybercriminals are quick to adapt their techniques.

Data breaches are costly, in more ways than one. Companies fork out large sums of money in ransomware attacks. The dent to their public reputation can also have a catastrophic long-term effect. IBM estimated in 2018 that the average cost of a data breach could be as much as $3.86m, a 6% increase from the previous year.

A more secure document storage solution

At Flexible Storage, we employ a range of practices to ensure the utmost protection for important documents. Our cast-iron security includes alarms, 24-hour CCTV surveillance, access codes and hardened steel locks.

If you’re interested in finding out more about secure offsite document storage, learn more about our protection and security services. Better yet, contact Flexible Storage today and one of our consultants will get in touch to talk over your requirements. 

Looking After Your Literature – The best way to pack books for storage

Despite living in an increasingly digitised world, books are still some of our most treasured possessions. From personal collections to student literature to business stock, there are many reasons why people need to store large quantities of books.

While storing books at home may be a viable option if your collection is small or you’re lucky enough to have the available space, for most people, there just isn’t enough room.

The urge to stuff them in the garage and forget about them can be strong but – as you will soon find out – the effects of improperly storing your books can be disastrous and result in your books becoming damaged beyond repair.

But, before we jump into the dangers, let’s first take a look at the main reasons why people need to properly store their books.     

Why store books? 

  •     Personal Collection – it’s surprising how quickly a personal book collection can build up, even for the most casual reader. From the dozens of cookery books you receive every Christmas to those classics that you’ll get round to reading one day, they all need to be kept somewhere safe and not cluttering up your home.
  •     Students – from the first days of primary school to deep into a university degree, compiling books is part and parcel of being a student. Many of these books are expensive so they’ll need to be taken care of. Likewise, many academic books can be re-sold or handed down to friends and family in future years so they’ll need to be stored to maintain their condition.
  •     Business – many independent bookshops struggle to find a cost-effective solution to their book storage needs. There’s only so much space in a shop and renting more retail space can be very expensive. Having a cheap and accessible storage space makes it easier to manage stock and keep costs down. This is particularly relevant to online bookselling businesses that need a secure space to store and manage their stock.
  •     Moving House – moving house can be a great opportunity to de-clutter your home and take advantage of alternative storage spaces. This is especially the case for people who are downsizing and want to keep their treasured book collection but will struggle to find the space.

What are the dangers to your books?

  •     Climate – like most things, books don’t like extreme temperatures. They should be kept in a storage space that has a relatively steady temperature and humidity. Too much humidity can result in mould and foxing of pages while too little can make books brittle. Some of the worst places for climate control in homes include garages and lofts, which should be reserved for your car and Christmas decorations, not your delicate books. 
  •     Sunlight – exposure to direct sunlight will cause your books to deteriorate over time. UV radiation not only damages the integral structure of books but it will also cause the jacket and spine to fade in colour and the pages to yellow.
  •     Pests – mice, cockroaches, silverfish, beetles and literal bookworms, they have all been known to feast on the glue and paper that make up books. While pests do not pose a threat in many cases, the risk of damage to your books increases if they are stored improperly in places that are easily accessible to these critters.

How to pack books for storage

Now that you know why people need proper storage solutions for their books and the dangers they face if improperly stored, it’s time for some tried and tested tips on the best way to pack books for storage.

  1.     Make sure all of your books are clean and free from dust and dirt. Once in storage, any dirt or grime on a book will continue to damage it over time and potentially damage other books in its vicinity. As an extra precaution, individually wrapping each both in protective cloth will ensure they are kept in the best possible condition (ideal for rare, limited edition or particularly treasured books).
  2.     Pack books in small to medium sized cardboard boxes or plastic containers. Ideally these boxes would be sturdy document storage boxes that are purposefully built to hold delicate paper-based items.
  3.     Don’t wrap books in anything plastic, including plastic bags or wrap. Plastic can trap moisture which, as we have explained above, can lead to paper crinkling and mould. Storing books in storage boxes allows air to circulate and prevents moisture from building up.
  4.     Don’t pack books with spines up or down. The weight of the book and any other books on top will crack the binding of the book’s spine over time. Pack books either upright or flat to prevent this deterioration.
  5.     Keep an inventory – it’s the Golden Rule of storage. Knowing what books are in storage and in which boxes will save you a great deal of time and effort when you come to retrieve your stuff. Label each box with its contents and make sure you keep the inventory in a safe place.

How to pack books for long-term storage in a storage unit

A self storage unit is one of the best places to store your books. With a consistent climate, high security and the space to meet your exact demands, a storage facility can look after your literature properly, all at a very competitive price.

When putting books into long-term storage it’s important that you pack them properly to ensure they stay in the best possible condition. Below are some storage tips for storing books in a storage unit:

  •     Don’t overload your storage boxes as your books could become deformed or damaged.
  •     Pack heavier books at the bottom of storage boxes and lighter books on top.
  •     Always use proper storage boxes, preferably made of robust cardboard.
  •     Ideally keep books and boxes off the floor using shelves or lining the floor of the storage unit with wooden pallets.
  •     Don’t stack storage boxes above shoulder height to avoid any accidents.

If you’re looking for a safe, accessible but cost-effective way to store your books, get in touch with the Flexible Storage team to see how we can help. With our years of experience, secure storage facility and vast supply of specialist storage materials, we can provide the best solution to your book storage needs.