Business rates – interim report makes, er, challenging reading!
Highlights of the policy paper. Administration of business rates in England: interim findings.
Not the catchiest of intros from me but then again I am doing you a big favour with this particular article so you don’t have to read all 40 pages yourself.
If you have ever followed the tortuous consultation process by our Government you will no doubt be aware that the timescales involved are not for the faint-hearted. However, on this occasion we have only had to wait a matter of months not years for the interim results – so far so good.
It doesn’t say who or how many stakeholders have been questioned as part of the consultation process to date but it received 217 written responses as well as held around 30 discussion forums. It does state early on in the report that the majority of respondents want all 1.8 million properties in England to continue to be valued individually.
Just over half of respondents, including most businesses and their representatives, favoured more frequent revaluation cycles than currently, believing that this would better align rateable values to market conditions.
However, a significant minority of respondents, including most respondents representing local government, didn’t favour more frequent revaluations, arguing that this would result in decreased certainty and stability to both business and local government.
Most respondents, including more than half of businesses, felt billing and collection needed significant improvement and that digital options should be looked at.
Although most respondents recognised that the timely and accurate gathering of information was integral to the effectiveness of the business rates system, views differed as to how this might be improved.
On the appeals front the Government wanted to look at alternative informal routes that allow ratepayers to check or seek changes to rateable values, including how and when evidence used for valuations should be shared with ratepayers.
It also wanted improvements to formal routes of appeal, including consideration of the information to be supplied with a formal challenge and how appeals should be made to the Valuation Tribunal for England.
The government also commits to set up a “forum” of ratepayers, their representatives, landlords and local authorities to bring forward practical improvements that:
- ensure the Valuation Office Agency has the data it needs to carry out timely and accurate valuations
- ensure information about changes to properties can be shared efficiently between public bodies and accurately reflected in valuations in a timely way
- improve the Valuation Office Agency’s systems for gathering rental details
- ensure the Valuation Office Agency can increase the transparency of the valuation process and of individual valuations whilst continuing to provide the right level of protection for information given to it in confidence.
If you are still with me at this point – and I am not overly optimistic you will be – here are a few headline numbers to finish off with:
There are 326 billing authorities.
As of September 2014, there were 1.816 million properties in England valued separately at each revaluation.
With a £57bn total rateable value of non-domestic properties in England.
Some 20% of properties in England accounted for around 80% of total rateable value as at March 2013.
Around £21bn is raised in England in 2013-14 to fund local services.
There were 641,000 appeals received against rateable values in the 2010 rating list in England.
532,000 of these had been resolved (as at 30 September 2014) and around 70% of all of these appeals resolved to date resulted in no change.
This case centres on a substantial three-storey office block: Mexford House, North Shore in Blackpool.
Pressure is still increasing on the Government to take action on business rates after the latest national town centre vacancy rate reached 10.2% last month.
The Rating Surveyors Association has published its response to the Government’s current inquiry on how business rates policy has impacted business with some interesting recommendations.