VOA calling in the “cavalry” to help clear Business Rates appeals backlog?

There are some reports circulating that the Government is considering the idea of bringing in an external agency to help with the huge backlog of business rate appeals still outstanding.

With around 300,000 cases still not dealt with by the Valuation Office Agency it is difficult to see how they are going to get on top of this without some kind of third party help – or more funding. As we are still in era of job cuts not job creation in Whitehall then perhaps calling in the private sector to lend a hand is a solution if conflict of interest can be avoided – but it will be expensive!

The VOA is also busy preparing the new 2017 Rating List revaluing 1.8 million properties, which will be made public in October and come into force on 1st April 2017. But the number of appeals doesn’t appear to be going down and estimates still put the numbers at the same level as this time last year.

The Government didn’t help itself by putting an expiration date on the backdating of historic business rate appeals either, which caused a stampede of appeals to be lodged last year. That deadline is now only a matter of weeks away and the only other sector that could possibly compete with the flurry of paperwork would be the buy-to-let mortgage market where would-be landlords are trying to complete sales before the new stamp duty rate kicks in on April 1.

Some industry experts suggest the VOA gets through around 10,000 appeals a month, if that’s the case then the maths is pretty clear cut – 2.5 years to get through the backlog…

It brings us all back to the issue of needing a simpler, fairer, system. The current back log crisis is pretty much one of the Government’s own making. They have tinkered with business rates so much over recent years – delaying the revaluation, introducing the limitation on backdated appeals, removing empty rates’ relief  to name a few – we are left with ‘mish mash’ of what was basically a sound taxation system.

The Government is promising to bring forward a “modern and more effective business rates appeals system” but their lamentable track record so far speaks far more loudly to me than their current soundbites.

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