Is the new business rates appeals system designed to help or hinder businesses wishing to make appeals against their rateable values?
The new Check, Challenge and Appeal system puts the onus firmly on the ratepayer to do all the leg-work, with no promise of success at the end of a long and potentially costly process.
For the education sector, with budgets already stretched, could this be a step too far?
Why the Change?
“There are a huge number of business rates appeals, whereby many businesses regularly question the figures they’re presented with from the VOA,” observes Paul Giness, rating expert with The Beattie Partnership. “The Government is attempting to reduce the number of appeals that are causing a blockage in the system.”
However, as Paul points out, many businesses appeal in the first place because of the lack of transparency within the system.
“Historically, there’s been an absence of clarity from the Valuation Office, so for many people, their best defence has been to get an appeal in and see what happens”
“Even so, the Government have pressed ahead with these controversial change,” Paul continues.
Time and Resources
The Check, Challenge and Appeal system requires that the ratepayer checks all the details listed, then puts forward supporting evidence to challenge them. This part of the process can take anything up to 24 months.
If the ratepayer wants to then appeal against the VOA’s decision, following the challenge stage, this takes up more time, and involves costs. The VOA will weigh up the evidence already submitted at the challenge stage when dealing with the appeal.
This means that the submission of evidence at the challenge stage is crucial.
“The challenge requires substantive evidence, and a proposed alternative valuation,” Paul points out. “On the one hand, this is designed to makes the whole thing more rigorously fact-based. But on the other, it demands a great deal from the ratepayer in terms of technical knowledge and resources.”
Can Schools Meet the Challenge?
Schools face enormous challenges in management of both time and resources, without factoring in business rates appeals.
“While the new system isn’t designed to catch schools out, it is likely to be very demanding in terms of input. Schools must address rates issues but having the resources to do this will be challenging for many of them”
There might be some light, however, as factual errors by the Valuation Office under the new Check system should be dealt with quicker than the more cavernous everlasting appeals process on previous Lists.
In addition, The Beattie Partnership are anticipating some headway can be made with Specialist Valuation Officers to tackle the underlying valuation basis within the Practice Note, to reduce the scale of increases facing independent schools.
Paul sees the answer in schools proactively seeking professional representation, and in diligent fact-checking.
“It’s a case of making the system work for you,” Paul concludes, “by bringing in expertise and taking the right advice to effectively meet the challenge of business rates.”
If you have had a rates increase or are questioning your rateable value, please call The Beattie Partnership on 0161 228 2224.