Occupiers swamped with VOA information requests
Occupiers are being inundated with requests for information on their property as the Valuation Office Agency gears up for Revaluation 2023.
The next revaluation will be based on the hypothetical rental value of a property on 1 April 2021 but the information collection strategy is targeting all occupiers regardless of when their leases start and even if they occupy freeholds.
To many, the strict timescales and threat of fines for non-compliance create a sense of urgency that results in incomplete information being provided to comply within the time limits. The information can have a direct bearing on the future level of the rating assessment so it’s essential that the correct position is accurately presented to the Valuation Office. In addition once information is provided via this from the Valuation Office treat it as “gospel” and it is difficult to sway their position.
The traditional multi-page rent return form has now been replaced by an online system which is much slicker but poses questions that to someone without a thorough understanding of how property works can be unclear and quite daunting. It’s also easy to miss out details of complex transactions as there’s no provision on the forms, so ultimately issues that would have an often substantial bearing on future rateable value & liability won’t get taken into account.
The Government have recently introduced a requirement for Local Authorities to provide a quarterly update on ratepayers in their borough which includes the company name and liability start date. This will be used to combat Small Business Rates Relief and other business rates related fraud.
It would also provide the VOA with a clear indication of the instances where liability for business rates started and by an extension of that, indicate where there were occupiers that have new leases, rent reviews or lease renewals in a timescale that would help with the assessment of business rates.
We firmly believe that this more ‘joined up’ thinking between the VOA, local authorities and government is an essential part of the modernisation of business rates and the ability to provide more frequent revaluations by allowing the VOA to focus their rent collection activities in instances where the info returned is actually relevant.
Our PropData platform collects similar information to that provided by Local Authorities to Government and it shows that in Manchester Council there are circa 3,000 properties where the liability start dates would be relevant for the 2023 Revaluation. Still huge numbers but much better than sending out letters to 10 times this amount. For the time being we’re stuck with this scattergun approach. The next obvious question is whether the VO have the ability to absorb this mass of information in time for draft list release in December 2022!
If you need any advice or assistance with the completion of forms then please let us know.
Rates mitigation is a subject well known to anyone in commercial property - but not necessarily well understood.
The new business rates year starts on 1 April and it seems an apt time to look at the weird and wonderful rating list descriptions that have built up.
The Government yesterday announced legislative changes to prevent the pandemic and potentially other “market-wide economic changes” being used as grounds to support reduced rateable values.