A local tax levied on occupiers of property by the responsible area authority at both district and county level and which is expected, with the aid of government grants, to cover the costs of providing the various area amenities and services, e.g. the upkeep of public parks, collection and disposal of refuse. In some countries rates take the form of a direct tax on income added to national income tax. There has often been pressure for this system to be adopted in the U.K. and there are signs of movement away from the property-related system at present in operation. The U.K. system is loaded against commercial properties, which pay a higher rate than purely domestic properties, though there are middle-bracket rates for ‘mixed hereditaments’, i.e. properties which are part commercial and part domestic. There is also a relief from rates for properties which can be shown to be uninhabited during the relevant period.
Reference: The Penguin Business Dictionary , 3rd edt.