DCLG to crack down on ‘unscrupulous’ business rate appeals

2 Nov 15

Plans to shake up the current business rates appeal process and protect councils from speculative appeals have been published for consultation by local government minister Marcus Jones.

Launching the consultation on Friday, Jones said some “unscrupulous agents” had contributed to a deadlocked system.

There are currently over 850,000 appeals being made on property valuations by the Valuation Office Agency. However, around 70% of these result in no change to the rateable value on the 2010 rating list, and less than 2% proceed to a tribunal hearing, the minister said.

And under the current system, councils have to meet any refunds following successful appeals from the locally retained 50% of rate growth. The Local Government Association has warned this hits public services.

As part of government plans to fully devolve business rates to town halls by 2020, Jones said a new three-step appeals process would make it easier for business owners to better check and challenge their business rates bills.

Currently, a majority of appeals are submitted by agents, many of whom operate on a ‘no win-no fee’ basis, sometimes for businesses who are unaware this is being done on their behalf.

To counter this, a new fee would be charged for anyone looking to lodge an appeal. This would be refundable if appeals are successful, and will be set at between £100 to £300, similar to fees charged by other tribunals such as tax tribunals.

Under the three-step process, businesses will be able to check online via the Valuation Office Agency the accuracy of valuations, with any agreed errors quickly corrected.

Any challenge to the rateable value on which their business rates bill is based will need to set out grounds with supporting evidence and put forward an alternative valuation. It is expected a majority of cases to be resolved by this point, although there will also be a final appeal stage.
Jones said these changes would tackle unscrupulous agents making speculative appeals.

“A key part of our long-term economic plan is to turn this around and streamline the system, which is why we’re proposing a straight-forward three-stage process so people can check and challenge their valuations and be confident they’ll get a fair deal.”

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