Alex Probyn, UK President of Business Rates at Altus Group, comments on regulations for the new business rates appeals process, Check Challenge Appeal, published two weeks before coming into force on 1 April.
“The new system fails to learn from the outgoing system. It places no obligations on the VOA to explain how a rateable value has been set and puts the onus entirely on the ratepayer to prove they have been over-assessed.”
“There is a fundamental problem in this approach. Ratepayers will know their own rents, if they pay rent, but not what their neighbours pay. And they might be freeholders. Few ratepayers have access to the evidence to understand their rateable value. Only the VOA has it and they are under no obligation to provide it before the appeal stage.”
“Our experience is that many cases are resolved at the appeal stage, when ratepayers are provided with the information used and withdraw their appeals. Under Check Challenge Appeal, it could take over three years to get to this stage.”
“If we want a timely and efficient appeals system – the Government’s stated aim – the ratepayer should be provided with the evidence used at the initial ‘check’ stage, but the VOA will only provide information if it considers it reasonable to do so. In the past, that has only been when counter evidence has been put forward by the ratepayer. That might well be down to lack of resources in the VOA.”
“The new appeals system appears focused entirely on making it difficult to appeal, rather than eliminating the need to appeal in such great numbers. In practice, the new system will defer appeals rather than reducing numbers. An opportunity to engage with the VOA at an early stage would have saved the old appeals system and made this complicated new system unnecessary.”
“The Government can partially remedy this through guidance to the VOA that they should disclose, at the initial check stage, the comparable properties used to set the rateable value. Even if the VOA is correct that data protection rules prevent it revealing rents paid by other businesses, it can give ratepayers more confidence in the basis of their rateable values.”