The “onerous” business rates appeal process is adding to the woes of struggling hospitality businesses and accelerating CVAs and closures, according to experts. Only 1.3 % of the 1.85 million rateable properties in England have contested their assessment, new figures from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) have revealed.
The figures reveal that only 23,770 checks have been made since the 2017 Rating Revaluation became effective on 1 April 2017, the same day as the appeals system Check, Challenge Appeal (CCA) was introduced.
The 2017 Rating List included considerable business rate increases across London and the South East, with some businesses seeing 50-100% increases in their assessments, alongside a punishing downward transitional scheme for the rest of the UK.
John Webber, head of business rating at commercial real estate agency Colliers International, said: “It beggars belief that businesses are so happy with their rate bills in 2017 that hardly any one is contesting. It is pretty obvious that the figures are so low purely because despite claims otherwise, ratepayers still can’t navigate through the new system.
“When the government introduced its new CCA appeals system on the same day as the new Rating List we and other experts had warned that it was unworkable at the time. Since then businesses have been really struggling to get registered; and even to claim that they are the ratepayer is a further hurdle. And that is before they get to the start of the check stage – a three-part appeal process, which many find unworkable and “not fit for purpose. Clients have been coming to us for advice as to what to do.”
In April Colliers International conducted a Freedom of Information request to the VOA concerning CCA, it revealed that nearly 90% of over 2,000 respondents were dissatisfied with the new system. “We get requests for help every day, ratepayers are tearing their hair out,” added Webber.
The VOA is trying to do something about the system, according to Webber. Planned improvements such as the development of API – how agents software and the VOA systems talk to each other – are planned for July to September.