Business Rates are one of the more unpopular business taxes and never far from the headlines and this April Fool’s Day saw the introduction of the new Rating List.
Paul Matthews of Bruton Knowles reviews the recent issues and takes a look at what lies ahead and how businesses should prepare for the revaluation.
“In a particularly disappointing move the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) took down its website on 30th March so that ratepayers submitting last minute appeals were unable to do so unless they used the cumbersome paper forms.
Whether this was a cynical ploy to reduce the potential for further, last minute appeals, to add to those already clogging up the existing system, is one for the reader’s judgement!
“There are now only very limited opportunities to challenge rateable values in force prior to 31 March 2017, so ratepayers and their advisors are turning their attention to the new rateable values and the Check, Challenge and Appeal regime.
“This new regime suggests that it will make challenges to Rateable Values easier. In my opinion this will certainly not be the outcome; what is clear is that central and local government’s true intention is to limit the number of rating appeals and to try and mitigate the loss of business rates income over the next 5 years.
“Whilst the concept of reducing the overall number of appeals is to be welcomed (70% of appeals in the 2010 list failed, largely due to spurious or misguided grounds), regrettably the new system is cumbersome and potentially flawed.
“The first stage of the new system is for the ratepayer to register with the VOA and to nominate their advisor on a per property basis. Following this the ratepayer can then enter the new Check, Challenge and Appeal regime.
“Firstly ‘check’ the relevant facts upon which the VOA has based its revaluation. The second stage allows the ratepayer to ‘challenge’ their rating list entry. The challenge must be submitted within four months of completion of the check stage. To make a challenge, robust valuation based evidence must be provided on the grounds for the challenge, substantive reasons for the challenge, and an alternative valuation.
“If the matter remains unresolved a ratepayer can make a formal appeal to the Valuation Tribunal, but a charge is now payable and despite recent pressure from ratepayer bodies and rating experts, the Government has still written into the Regulations that the original valuation must have been unreasonable, rather than simply incorrect, in order for it to be altered. This is not a “reasonable” approach and hopefully one that will be challenged in the courts.
“It is worth remembering that appealing the rateable value is not the only way to mitigate business rates liability. There are numerous reliefs and opportunities available.
“It is essential that ratepayers take professional advice from respected surveyors with a track record of delivering actual savings and I would advise all ratepayers to avoid those cold callers and cowboy companies that usually charge excessive fees and fail to deliver real savings.
“The registration step now gives ratepayer the power to appoint advisors wisely so please use it!”