Retailers urged to complain to MPs about “onerous” & “unworkable” appeal system

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appeals system

The Rating Surveyors Association has called on retailers across the UK to write to their local MPs to complain about the new business rates appeal system.

The group, which represents chartered surveyors, has sent out a template letter for retailers to fill in and send to their local representatives which highlights the key problems with the new system.

Following the changes made to business rates on April 1, a new three-stage appeal system for business rates called “Change Challenge Appeal” was introduced.

This system, alongside the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) portal which the group has branded “a car crash” are key points raised in the template letter.

The VOA requires businesses to provide personal non-business information as well as details and proof of every property they trade from.

As is the practice in Wales, the letter suggests that only a list of properties occupied by the retailer should suffice for a rates appeal.

“The new appeals system is unworkable in its current form. The online system is difficult to navigate and it isn’t working for retailers,” said John Webber from commercial property consultancy firm Colliers.

READ MORE: Sadiq Khan: new business rates place ‘London’s high streets under threat’

“We’re encouraging retailers to speak up, as it is a car crash. When we complain, the government just thinks we’re moaning. We’re hoping that by contacting MPs something will be done about it. Doing nothing isn’t an option.”

The British Retail Consortium’s policy adviser Jim Hubbard added: “Many retailers and property agents have said the system has become more onerous.

“The system expects upfront evidence (but) businesses (may) lack access to comparable rents. Many are frustrated by the online portal and the details required to claim for each property, which takes significant time given bugs with the system.

“We have highlighted these issues with the VOA, which has given us reassurance that they are dealing with some of these concerns, including improving the website’s language and functionality, and have asked it to put forward a timetable of when businesses can expect these and other fixes.”

In response, a spokesman for the VOA said: “The VOA is continuing to make improvements to the online ‘check and challenge’ service based on customer feedback.

“Working with our customers we’re looking at all options to improve the service as quickly as possible, particularly for agents and multiple property owners.

“The new system allows businesses to get their issues handled at the right stage, reserving the appeal route for those that most need it, and saving them time and effort.”

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