Altus Group calls for evidence sharing by Valuation Office Agency to take pressure off appeals system.
Just 3 of the 297 business rates appeals listed to be heard at each hearing are being determined, according to information obtained under a Freedom of Information request to the Valuation Tribunal Service by rating adviser Altus Group. The data covers the period April to December 2016.
“At this rate it could take 300 years to clear the backlog from 2010,” says UK head of business rates at Altus Group, Alex Probyn, “and a whole new body of appeals is about to be lodged against the 2017 revaluation.”
“The UK’s businesses rely on the appeals process to remain competitive and sometimes to stay afloat. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently described one million appeals as an appropriate review process against two million revaluations and we can see that around one third of appeals are successful. Appeals matter.”
“Given the stretched resources of the Valuation Tribunal Service, the answer has to be in greater engagement by the Valuation Office Agency when discrepancies are first raised. Most ratepayers want to reach a settlement as early as possible.”
“If the Valuation Office Agency engaged in discussions up front, and revealed the evidence used to set the disputed valuation, tens of thousands of these appeals could quickly be settled. As it is, simple cases are gumming up the system and preventing those suffering unjust valuations from having their cases resolved.”
“Only a small minority of cases should require a tribunal hearing. This is usually where valuers cannot agree on the analysis of comparable transactions. The Valuation Tribunal is highly professional and excellent at closing the gap between the two sides, but they should never be in the position where they are dealing with the administration of 297 appeals for a single day hearing.”
A new appeals system, known as Check Challenge Appeal, comes into effect on 1 April 2017. Further detail on the regulations governing the process was published on 8 March and a controversial new test allowing a margin of error has been dropped. The new process lacks any obligation on the Valuation Office Agency to share evidence with ratepayers at the Check and Challenge stages, with the result that ratepayers will continue to need to appeal in order to understand the basis of disputed valuations.