The new Check Challenge Appeal Regulations came into force on 1 April 2017 and, it’s these Regulations, which now govern the new business rates appeal process.
Whilst business rates are, undoubtedly, a contributory factor to the struggles facing our embattled retail sector, it’s simply a step too far to blame the change in the appeals process for the crisis engulfing our high streets.
In the first full financial year, 18,400 Checks were settled compared with 11,520 appeals one year after the 2010 revaluation, an increase of 60% in tax dispute resolutions. Of those Checks settled, a total of 13,230 were agreed or partially agreed culminating in tax rebates back to business, a success rate overall of 72%.
Therefore, to suggest, the new procedures and processes are a deliberate ploy to prevent meritorious appeals doesn’t make sense, and only risks hindering a collaborative approach to improve the system. The system can work for those willing to get stuck in and our own statistics prove that if you find ways to work with the system then it is possible to have success.
Yes appeals numbers have dropped markedly but that was, of course, always going to happen for a number of reasons. A key intention of Check Challenge Appeal was to create a more streamlined and modern system that deterred speculative appeals. The new processes act as a natural filter for this as no ratepayer and/or their representative wants to risk an increase in liabilities. It is also true that the early period of this new list has seen new challenges that advisors and businesses have found difficult to overcome, but we must all work together to improve these.
A year on, over 7 in every 10 business rates appeals are now successful compared to less than 3 in every 10 under the old appeals regime. Further, with the increase in thresholds for small business rates relief, there are now an extra 362,951 properties which have a complete exemption from business rates.
655,970 properties have paid no business rates at all since April last year more than double compared with 2010 and, as such, there will be no need for over a third of all business properties with a rateable value to even appeal. This is a new system of appeals and it isn’t still without issues but, new features and improvements are being added and I’m committed to helping improve it further making it a change for the better in the longer term. Last month the Valuation Office Agency outlined their plans for delivering improved functionality to the online portal which should make it easier for everyone moving forward. This should be warmly welcomed.
In a few months time application programming interfaces (APIs) will allow major retailers to integrate their own applications, or software, with the Valuation Office Agency meaning that they will be able to extract and provide information directly through their own systems. The estates manager of a large supermarket could, for example, view all the properties claimed by their organisation on the Check Challenge service through their own operating systems.
The only concerns that I have are whether the system might find it harder to respond to an influx in appeals as volume inevitably takes hold.
I urge the Valuation Office Agency to give this it’s full attention.