While businesses have been celebrating George Osborne’s promise, in his Autumn Statement, to double small business rates relief in 2015/16, chartered surveyors have reacted angrily to proposals hidden in the small print.
While the headline benefits are being digested and debated by TV pundits and tabloid editors, the impacts of the fine print could be far more significant, warn rating specialists.
“It’s something tucked away in HMRC’s support documentation and easy to miss,” explains Paul Giness of The Beattie Partnership, a leading chartered surveyor. “And when you realise the impact, you can see why they wanted to keep it quiet”.
For businesses questioning their rateable value, the period within which they can backdate appeals has been slashed. On existing appeals, backdating will still cover the period between April 2010 and the first of April 2015. However, if you apply for a rates review after April 2015 that reduces your payments we understand there will be no backdating at all.
“That one change has huge consequences for businesses who feel that they’re getting a raw deal on their business rates,” continues Paul. “Instead of getting a backdated refund that could give you a windfall, rating appeals from April will only backdate to 2015, as far as we understand it, although we await the confirmed regulation.”
The row threatens to overshadow other proposals in the Autumn Statement, many of which have been broadly welcomed by small business owners. Inflation based business rate increases have been capped at 2% and Retail Relief incentives to many shops, pubs and restaurants will be increased by 50% to £1,500 next year.
“These are positive steps for our beleaguered high street. It’s just a shame that they chose to drop this unfortunate fly in the ointment.”
Concerned businesses are being encouraged to speak to ratings experts as soon as possible, especially if they’ve not yet requested a rating review.