New Proposals are set to introduce a more efficient appeals system, allowing business owners to better check and challenge their business rate bills.

Local Government Minister Marcus Jones announced on the 30th October that new proposals would be introduced in a bid to make it easier for business owners to check and challenge their business rate bills with the use of an improved appeals system.

At present, more than 850,000 appeals have been submitted against rating valuations for the 2010 Rating List, of which 70% resulted in no change to the rateable value. Less than 2% of appeals proceed to a tribunal hearing.

One of the major issues with the current system is that the great majority of appeals are submitted by agents, many of whom operate on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. This allows them to put protective or speculative appeals, with no supporting evidence, sometimes for businesses who are unaware this is being done on their behalf.

Mr Jones explains that the proposed measures aim to streamline the system:

“The business rates appeals process has been in a decades-long deadlock, hampered by some unscrupulous agents making speculative appeals – sometimes for businesses unaware this is being done on their behalf.

A key part of our long-term economic plan is to turn this around and streamline the system, which is why we’re proposing a straight-forward 3-stage process so people can check and challenge their valuations and be confident they’ll get a fair deal.”

The new proposed measures will aim to deliver a more efficient appeals system by ensuring that businesses can be confident that their valuations are correct and that they are paying the right amount of business rates.

Cases can be resolved at an earlier stage with quicker refunds, where appropriate, by weeding out early the speculative appeals that clog up the system. This will allow swifter resolution for businesses in need of support and due refunds.

Under the proposed reforms, businesses would go through a 3-stage process:

  • check – ensuring the relevant facts are up to date and accurate, with any agreed errors quickly corrected
  • challenge – allowing the business to challenge the rateable value on which their business rates bill is based, giving them the opportunity to set out their grounds for challenging, to obtain an alternative valuation and to put forward supporting evidence – the governments expects the great majority of cases to be resolved by this point
  • appeal – offering the opportunity to appeal to an independent valuation tribunal

The Valuation Office Agency will also develop a modern, simple online service which will allow customers to provide information and to track the progress of their check or challenge.

BT                                                                           17/11/2015