// The Valuation Office Agency says almost 2000 appeals are made on a weekly basis over business rates bills
// Altus Group says “the settlement rate must increase significantly during 2020” in order to help businesses
// Government should change the law to reduce the maximum response time for appeals from 18 months to six months – argues Altus Group
Almost 2000 appeals a week are made by companies over their business rates bills, according to official statistics by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
In the final three months of 2019 a total of 23,660 premises liable for business rates appealed over their bills.
That figures brings the total number of “Checks and Challenges” by retailers, bars, restaurants and offices for the year to 164,050 since a revaluation of business rates came into effect on April 1 2017.
For those premises where issues could not be agreed at the “Check” stage, under a three-stage process, those formal appeals moved to the “Challenge” stage.
Critics have also said the system is now too complex and time-consuming, so that many give up with appeals altogether.
To exacerbate matters for retailers, the VOA has 18 months to respond before a tribunal can take place.
Businesses must continue trading throughout that time and hope to remain solvent.
“The new system introduced in 2017 has resulted in very low volumes compared with the previous revaluation cycle but, with less than 14 months left in which to take action, we expect to see a dramatic, potentially threefold, increase in appeals,” said Altus Group president of expert services Alex Probyn.
“The settlement rate must increase significantly during 2020 so as to ensure ratepayers benefit from tax reductions on meritorious cases as quickly as possible,” added Probyn.
Retailers have criticised the current business rates system for intensifying the decline on the high street by placing high cost pressures on shops, pubs and cinemas.
Last year Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his Government would launch a fundamental review of the business rates tax and ensure the overall tax burden is reduced as a result of that review.
The Conservative manifesto of 2019 outlined plans to reduce the rates burden by £320 million in the 2020-21 financial year, by extending a retail discount from 33 per cent to 50 per cent for businesses with a rateable value below £51,000.
However, Altus Group has previously pointed out that for the three following years, the manifesto said it will only reduce total tax receipts by £10 million each year.
This compares to a business rates yield of more than £33 billion for each year from 2021-22, meaning the rates cut will only reduce the burden by 0.03 per cent.
This week Probyn implored that concrete plans need to be in place for retailers.
“The situation is salvageable but more resource must be found now for the VOA which is being asked to do more with less,” explained Probyn.
“The Government should also look to immediately change the law to reduce the maximum response time from 18 months to six months.”
With PA Wires