Business rates soar past £24bn mark whilst appeal numbers plummet

It is business rates bonus time for the Government once again with almost £25bn set to be collected in 2018/19.

Local authorities in England alone are calculated to collect an additional £845m next rate year taking the annual tally to £24.8bn.

A double financial whammy for some also sees that the higher figure come about the same time as we witness a massive drop in the number of firms challenging their rateable value due to the complexity of the system.

Queries lodged under the new Check, Challenge, Appeal system stood at 12,840 in the first nine months from 1 April 2017, compared to 169,300 appeals during the first full-year of the previous regime – a 92.5% fall in numbers and that’s according to the Valuation Tribunal Service itself.

I’m sure not many people believe that over 90 % of previous appeals were being lodged on a wing and prayer, which means the complexity of the new system does seem to be massively deterring firms from challenging their bills. It has even been raised in the House of Lords, with Lord Lytton apparently telling fellow peers that CCA involved “the most torturous” registration.

Despite many forms of business rate relief being made available by the Chancellor and the switch from CPI to RPI for calculating the annual increases, it seems there isn’t a week goes by that we don’t see one business or another blaming business rates as a major factor in closing their doors. Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant chain announced several closures this week and, once again, business rate rises, were cited in the list of reasons for the demise. A quick Google search will also bring up a litany of bars and restaurants, in particular, who have all called it a day in recently and blame business rates as a significant factor.

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Well said! Of course, the reason for the drop in he number of appeals is the CCA system itself, which is very complex and, some might say, overintrusive. The last I heard was that only one appeal under the new system had reached the Valuation Tribunal – but then, of course, they have a backlog of over 200,000 appeals agains the old assessments, to clear

The VT is tackling this problem, although it has recently been criticised by the Upper Tribunal for being too quick to strike out ratepayers’ appeals, and for treating procedure as a mistress rather than a handmaid (although making clear that both must be respected).

VOA called in HMRC IT to help to sort out some of the problems with CCA and I gather that some progress is being made towards simplifying the system and de-bugging it, which is overdue as the system was introduced on 1st April, last year. We are not there yet, however; and I (with others) am due to see the responsible minister later this month, to review progress

By Peter Scrafton