Business Rates Appeals Process to Involve Penalty Charges
In April 2017, new rateable values for non-domestic properties in England were introduced, making the first rating revaluation in several years. This exercise brought numerous changes in rateable values for non-domestic property owners, in addition to introducing a new appeals process known as ‘Check, Challenge, Appeal.’ The new process replaced the former system of proposing to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to amend the rating list. If this didn’t bear fruit, the appeal was referred to the Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE).
Ratepayers and advisors now have to follow this 3-step process if they don’t agree with the new rateable value of their non-domestic property. It’s a process that has elicited a lot of responses from ratepayers. As businesses continue to try to understand how to navigate the process, draft regulations have been tabled before Parliament to introduce a £500 penalty (£200 for ‘small proposers’) for ratepayers who provide incorrect information during the appeals process. ‘Small proposers’ refers to businesses that have a balance sheet or annual turnover of less than £2 million and employ less than ten employees.
To some within the industry, the penalty charges look like a means of discouraging businesses from appealing their business rates. Any business wishing to undertake the process is required to approach it with careful thought and consideration, so it doesn’t hurt to approach a specialist business rates company such as RVA Surveyors to find out the right way to handle the issue.
Already, the Valuation Office Agency has the authority to require ratepayers to give information regarding business rates assessment and can also impose civil penalties should the information not be supplied or is deemed false. As a result, many ratepayers feel that the proposed new penalties are more of a deterrent to using the system than an aid to the VOA to get the process right.
A ratepayer or agent acting on behalf of a business wishing to use the new system has to register on an official Government web portal. The registration process requires that the owner or occupier of the property input their personal and business details. Once they complete this process, they have to upload proof of occupation or ownership of a property to ‘claim’ it. When a property is claimed in this manner, the ratepayer can appoint an agent to follow up on the checks and appeals related to the property. It’s important to note that the agent is also required to register and verify themselves on the portal.
Using an Agent
Many ratepayers feel confident in being able to navigate the appeals process on their own. However, there are those who wish to be represented. In such cases, it’s essential to use a qualified and regulated firm or individual that follows rules of professional conduct. Such an agent must also have the necessary knowledge and expertise to go through the appeals process on your behalf.
There are some simple ways to help in dealing with business rates that can save time and money, especially if a business wishes to keep the process simple. For starters, it helps to scrutinise the rate demand and ask for an explanation from the local authority if something isn’t clear. If there are still doubts about the rates bill, seek advice from a business rates professional.
As a ratepayer, beware of any expert that guarantees success or demands up-front payment for their services. The property valuation and appeal process is one that requires knowledge and clear presentation of evidence. Ask any rates expert for their professional credentials and their track record of cases handled. This will help you to establish whether to entrust them with the case or seek another firm.