// Research suggests £115m of retailers’ refunds have been denied via business rates appeals
// Colliers International say this is adding to retailers’ cash flow distress
// It also labelled the appeals system as “cumbersome”
Retailers enduring the current business rates regime are facing hardship due to an appeal system that impairs their ability to receive refunds, Colliers International have said.
The property consultancy firm labelled the appeals system as “cumbersome” as it “spirals out of control”.
Colliers head of business rates John Webber said retailers who pay an “unproportionate” slice of the UK’s £26 billion business rates bill rely on their refunds from successful appeals when planning their business forecasts.
Webber added that this year, retail alone is expected to pay in the range of around £7.625 billion in business rates.
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Webber also said that on average, retailers receive approximately five per cent of their annual rates bill back as a cash refund and that failure to receive this means they are losing out on more than £38 million a year of much-needed cash injection.
He warned that since the government’s Check, Challenge, Appeal (CCA) business rates appeal system was introduced in 2017, retailers could be out of pocket by around £115 million.
“The [CCA] system is so difficult to navigate that retailers have either delayed putting in their appeals, in the hope that the system gets sorted, or find themselves stuck in the Check and Challenges stage of the process, before even getting to appeal,” Webber said.
“The impact of the snarl up in the government’s business rates appeals system is taking its toll.
“And latest figures don’t give any promise that the situation is getting any better.”
New statistics from the Valuation Tribunal (VT), obtained by Colliers, reveal that the number of outstanding appeals against the 2017 list has increased by 360 per cent in second quarter of this year.
Colliers said these appeals managed to get through the Check and Challenge aspect of the new appeal system and are actually at appeal stage.
Colliers also said in the quarter, the tribunal received 102 appeals against the 2017 list and had another 34 brought forward – but it only managed to clear 13, leaving the number outstanding at the end of June to 123.
The VT has publicly stated that it expected to see an avalanche of appeals when retailers finally do get round to navigating through the system.
Some industry experts anticipate up to 40,000 appeals against the 2017 list, and that each appeal will take three years to be heard.
“Thousands of rate payers unhappy with their rates bills are therefore not only stuck in the Checks and Challenges section of CCA waiting to be dealt with, but even when they finally reach the appeals stage only a very few are getting through,” Webber said.
“This will have far reaching consequences, particularly for mainly retail businesses who rely on their refunds following appeal in their financial planning.
“Cash is the lifeblood of such businesses and it is appalling that the government has not done more to correct the system.”
Businesses across England could see their business rates bills increase by £536 million for 2020-21, if the headline rate of inflation of 1.7 per cent remains unchanged in September, according to forecasts from real estate adviser Altus Group.
Of that total, retailers will shoulder £136.9 million of that price hike.
“The system appears to be spiralling out of control and sadly it is businesses on our high street that will continue to suffer, particularly if they are unable to properly appeal against their rates bills or claim their refunds,” Webber said.
“The government continues to fiddle around the edges as the high street burns.
“Thirteen appeals in three months with 40,000 expected for the 2017 list alone is a seriously unfunny joke in a period of retail distress.”