DCLG confirms reforms to business rate appeal process

7 Jul 16

The Department for Communities and Local Government has pledged that new rules governing business rate appeals will weed out speculative applications ahead of localisation to town halls.

Following a consultation on changes to the system for appeals, DCLG announced it would go ahead with changes intended to tackle “unscrupulous” appeals.

Councils have said they would need to be protected from the risk of appeals if 100% localisation from 2020 was to be successful. Over 955,000 appeals have been submitted against rating valuations for the 2010 rating list in England, with local authorities liable for half of any refunds under the current 50% retention system.

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, local government secretary Greg Clark has confirmed a new £300 fee would be charged for anyone looking to lodge an appeal. New rules will also mean penalties of up to £500 could be imposed for providing false information “carelessly, recklessly or knowingly”.

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.

A new online service will allow customers to provide information about their property as often as they like and to track the progress of their check or challenge.

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.

“For too long we’ve had an appeals system where backlogged cases – often caused by unscrupulous agents eyeing up a fast buck – meant unnecessary costs and uncertainty for all involved,” Clark stated.

“That’s why we are going ahead with our plans to streamline the process and help resolve cases as quickly and fairly as possible. The vast majority of disputes will now be settled long before lengthy litigation and will mean businesses and councils can get on with planning budgets, confident they are getting a fair deal.”

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