It may be the season to be jolly, but there’s little to feel festive about if you’re a ratepayer on a commercial property.
Figures from the Valuation Office Agency show an alarmingly low number of business rates appeals were lodged with the VOA in 2017. The number of businesses contesting their rates bill has plummeted from 182,000 in 2010, when the last business rates revaluation was conducted, to just 5,650.
Furthermore – albeit the figure hasn’t been officially confirmed by the VOA – the number of appeal cases to reach full appeal stage is understood to be just three.
So why have such a low number of appeals been lodged? One reason could be the hugely complex and time consuming new system that was introduced by the Government earlier this year.
The system, called ‘Check, Challenge, Appeal’, puts the onus on the ratepayer to provide all the relevant information relating to their case and input it using the online system. However, what was supposed to make the appeals process easier, has just made it more complicated and in doing so, as the evidence would suggest, has led to fewer appeals being lodged with the VOA.
To compound the situation further, the VOA is reportedly having to cut up to 1,000 jobs by 2020. In what is already a creaking system, this will surely only make matters worse and will lead to even fewer cases making it to the full appeal stage.
In his recent Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond tossed businesses a few crumbs by bringing forward plans to switch the inflation measure used to calculate annual business rates increases from the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the lower Consumer Price Index (CPI).
He also announced plans to reduce the period between valuations to every three years – it’s currently every five.
I’m afraid these measures don’t, however, do anything to address concerns over the new appeals system and the impact it could have on businesses.
Unfortunately, it would appear that for now we are stuck with ‘Check, Challenge, Appeal’.
If you’re struggling to navigate your way through the new system, rather than letting it ruin your Christmas, we can help. We have produced a step-by-step guide and our expert team of rating advisers can guide you through the process.