Ahead of tomorrow’s Autumn Budget, Adam Rock, partner in Birmingham and head of rating at Bruton Knowles, says:
“Ratepayers are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the Chancellor’s announcements on Wednesday.
“However, expectations are unsurprisingly low. Despite around 90 per cent of ratepayers being dissatisfied with the current business rates system, the Government believes that it is ‘working well’.
“It may be working well for the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which currently appears to be burying its head in the sand and not dealing with rating enquires or challenges against its valuations.
“We have come across many situations since the new 2017 list came into force where the case worker at the VOA simply avoids entering into negotiations of their allocated cases despite having a duty to uphold and maintain an accurate list.
“The onus is now very much upon the appellant to push the negotiations forward, which currently appears the need to proceed to tribunal. This all sadly means the ratepayer potentially paying the inflated rates for longer and incurring more fees to resolve their issues. The system is clearly set up to put people off challenging their rates. This is wholly out of order and we have said for many years that the whole system needs resetting.
“There is a glimmer of hope in that Philip Hammond is reportedly considering the possibility of bringing in some relief to business rates by next April. However, whilst he may want to offer allowances and reliefs, the VOA, despite saying it is listening to concerns raised by ratepayers and rating consultants alike, tend to simply ignore them.
“One thing that is certain is that the rates payable is set to increase next Spring. If the rates follow the August Retail Price Index rate of inflation it may be 3.9 per cent, although if the Chancellor decides to reflect the lower Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which has been suggested instead, than a mere three per cent increase may be applied.
“Many voices, few stronger that The British Retail Consortium (BRC), stated that capping any increase by three per cent would be a ‘step forward’.“
All in all, as it stands the upcoming Budget may result in retailers facing a hike of £270 million in rates bill from April, which comes all too conveniently as we hear about the ever-increasing BREXIT bill.”