Business Rates gets a mention in Enterprise Bill but scant detail

The British Property Federation was quick to comment on the recent Queen’s Speech and specifically on business rates provision within the Enterprise Bill.

Its comments were hot off the press in relation to changing the business rates appeals system and, whilst this element didn’t make that many headlines last week, it still has a huge bearing on British businesses and their viability going forward.

The Enterprise Bill aims to:
•   Improve the business rates system ahead of the 2017 revaluation, including by modernising the appeals system.
•   Introduce business rates appeals reform, including modifying the Valuation Tribunal powers to consider ratepayer appeals.
•   Allow for the Valuation Office Agency to share information with local government to improve the system for both local government and ratepayers.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation broadly welcomed the news but said: “The current business rates system is out-of-touch and badly needs reform if we are to create an environment in which businesses can flourish and are able to invest in our towns and cities. While it is good to see that the appeals system will be scrutinised, this should not be seen as a substitute for fundamental reform that makes business rates more responsive to the wider economy. A fairer, more flexible system will in itself reduce appeals as bills return to a level that businesses across the country are able to pay.”

There is still very little information forthcoming from the Government about the reforms, surprisingly few leaks, so I guess any kind of decision is still some way off as they don’t feel the need to be warming up the business community just yet on its eventual plans.

I also took part recently in a consultation process regarding business rates’ mitigation and avoidance, and how the Government could stop the current barrage of schemes and appeals that aim to do just that. Again, nothing has come to light in terms of feedback so we can only hope that there is a modicum of common sense and those involved in these two review processes are actually talking to each other when it comes to producing a coherent Rating policy that works for businesses across the country.

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