The Chancellor may have introduced a number of headline grabbing changes in March’s budget to advance the credentials of being small business friendly. However, other fundamental changes to the Business Rate appeal system have been published by Government and included in the Enterprise Bill.
Whilst ratepayers are generally aware of the forthcoming national revaluation effective 1 April 2017 and the fact that their draft rating assessments are to be published online from October the proposed new 3 stage appeal process has received remarkably few column inches.
If implemented, existing proposals state that ratepayers wishing to check and challenge the rateable value for their premises will be required not only to propose an alternative value to the Valuation Office Agency at the challenge stage but also provide all rental evidence, argument and supporting case law for that valuation at the outset.
Whilst the theory is that a majority of appeals will be resolved at this stage, ratepayers will be more likely to require both professional representation and particularly local expertise to meet statutory requirements, substantiate their case and confirm the relevant evidence to support the appeal.
If the challenge stage does not produce a resolution, the third stage is the ‘appeal’ which will be a hearing before the Valuation Tribunal for England. This can occur if the ratepayer disagrees with a decision notice at the ‘challenge’ stage, or if the appeal has spent over 18 months at the ‘challenge’ stage.
The Government proposes to restrict the introduction of substantial new evidence at this stage by either party to the appeal, save at the mutual agreement of the parties, which may be prejudicial to rate payers. Significantly the Government also proposes to introduce fees for the appeal stage which is not a feature of the present system.
Whilst the proposals may have the benefit of preventing spurious appeals, it would appear that the process from a ratepayers perspective may become both more onerous and expensive than is presently the case.
P.A. Dickins Bsc (Hons) MRICS.