Nearly seven years have passed since the last Business Rates revaluation. With the south west property market having experienced a sharp decline and limited recovery since 2008 the next Revaluation in April 2017 is expected to have a significant impact on rates bills across England and Wales.
South west ratepayers who have been focussed on business survival in recent years could be expected to welcome a revaluation based on 2015 rental values and the opportunity to challenge any unfair or excessive assessments. It is widely accepted that the current business rates system needs a fundamental reform to make it fair and transparent.
However the Government has now published its consultation on the reform of business rates appeals and has included some iniquitous suggestions which could seriously harm a ratepayers right to appeal if their assessment is excessive at the start of the list or becomes so over the next 5 years.
Draft rateable values are due to be published in October 2016 and the list goes live in April 2017. As part of the new appeal regime ratepayers seeking to challenge their new Rateable Value now have a 3 step process to endure - Check, Challenge, Appeal.
Checking involves reviewing factual information with the Valuation Office. This includes rents and floor areas. This step could take 12 months and there is a risk of a fine for supplying false information.
Challenging places the burden of proof on the ratepayer to prove that the rateable value is incorrect. The Valuation Office will not reveal its evidence or justification. This step places pressure on ratepayers and their advisors to obtain all relevant evidence and supply it.
When it comes to appealing, if a business has made it this far without reaching a satisfactory conclusion, it can make a formal appeal against the Rateable Value. For the first time a charge up to £300 maybe applied for the right to launch an appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.
In the small print is hidden one of the most worrying proposals in that the Valuation Tribunal will not amend the rateable value unless it is “outside the bounds of reasonable judgement”. What this means is that the Valuation Office has been granted a de facto margin of error and the margin could be as much as 20%. This has far reaching implications and totally unbalances the appeals process.
With the odds now stacked against the ratepayer, this proposed system is a blatant attempt by government to ride roughshod over the rights of ratepayers to ensure they do not pay excessive local taxes. It is an overreaction to the genuine issue of the volume of appeals submitted against the 2010 Rating List by some firms many of which had no chance of success. Often charging excessive fees these appeals have clogged up the system and forced government to penalise all ratepayers.
Bruton Knowles supports a fair business rates system and believes in providing ratepayers with accurate advice to reduce excessive business rates bills. For professional help with your business rates assessment contact us today.