More than half of Elmbridge’s private schools do not pay full business rates because they are registered as charities, effectively receiving a tax break of £2.5 million.

Of the borough’s 54 commercial properties classified as private schools, 34 (63 per cent) hold charity status.

Businesses in England and Wales can receive a rate relief of 80 per cent if a property is used for ‘charitable’ purposes.

This means an overall saving for the 34 schools of £2,455,648 in 2017/18.

State schools are ineligible for charitable status, so pay full business rates.

Collectively, Elmbridge’s private schools will pay £2,037,458 this year in rates after the relief, at an average of £37,730.

According to the Independent Schools Council, the average private school costs £14,102 per year.

Although this varies depending on the area, that could mean that the fees of just three pupils can pay for the rates.

The Elmbridge data were revealed by a Freedom of Information request from CVS Business Rent and Rates Specialists.

Mark Rigby, Chief Executive of CVS said: “It cannot be right that state schools pay normal business rates but 63 per cent of private schools in Elmbridge using charitable status, receive 80 per cent discount.

“As the overall tax burden continues to rise, businesses – particularly SMEs – must have the confidence that fairness is at the heart of the tax system.”

Julie Robinson, Independent Schools Council General Secretary, said: “Many independent schools were given into charitable trusts by their founders and are essentially charities which operate as schools. Education is a charitable purpose in law, and these schools have to demonstrate public benefit to the Charity Commission through annual reports.

“The reduced business rates they benefit from saves them collectively about £150 million a year. This is a much smaller sum than the amount they spend on bursaries – £380 million on means-tested bursaries and scholarships, mostly for children from low income households – outreach to state schools and the amount they save the state from educating these children at the expense of the taxpayer; worth over £4 billion a year.

“At present there are 1,140 ISC schools in partnership with state schools and, in total, as many as 10,000 different partnership projects now exist with state schools. Independent and state schools enter into this work voluntarily and as equal partners, with approximately 175,000 state sector students a year benefitting. These partnerships include new free schools, and sharing of teachers, in particular in subjects where there is a shortage in state schools such as maths, physics and foreign languages, and of teaching, sport, drama, music and art facilities.”