Business Rates appeal system creates trial by bureaucracy

Figures from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) shows that an alarmingly low number of business rates appeals were lodged in 2017.

It means many businesses are paying much more to the Government than they should, money which should be hitting their bottom line and not lining the pockets of the treasury.

Figures show that since the Government brought in its hugely complex and time consuming new appeal system, 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.

Experts at the Cardiff office of Bruton Knowles are now advising businesses to get in touch and make use of its step-by-step guide on negotiating the mind-blowingly complex process.

Adam Rock from the leading commercial property agents said: “The business rate appeal system, which is called ‘Check, Challenge, Appeal’, puts the onus squarely 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 last 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’ with an additional label of ‘Wait’.”