Some independent retailers have been hit by over 40% increases in their business rates, but it’s not just those who’ve faced rise that should be considering filing a business rate appeal.
From high street giants to the smallest of local stores, Richard Wackett – lead partner at ratings experts Montagu-Evans has detected clear inaccuracies in the new ratings. See below for the eight points you need to know before appealing or applying for relief.
The appeal system is suffering from technical difficulties
According to Wackett, even the Valuations Office know the appeal system isn’t working. Despite the controversy of the new rates, appeals received has fallen from around 10,000 per month to just 1,000 per month since the new appeal system – Check Challenge Appeal, has been introduced.
Commenting on this trend, the expert from Montagu-Evans told Retail Express “It’s because the government’s new gateway, the IT portal they’re using, is very difficult to operate and probably dysfunctional.”
It won’t be quick
In April CVS Business Rent & Rates Specialists discovered that almost one in five appeals to the Valuation Office Agency are waiting for a hearing, and one in six can expect a delay of a further two years.
Their CEO Mark Rigby said, “Those businesses facing huge hikes in rates from the new 2017 property assessments, under the new Check Challenge Appeal system, could face a maximum wait of three years to have their appeals resolved.”
The business rate appeal system favours large organisations
The rates themselves have been criticised for favouring larger supermarkets, with Tesco alone to save £105 m over the next five years according to CVS.
However, the appeal system may also be skewed. There are 16 sections of what Richard Wackett described as a “very difficult to operate” system. Something he claims gives “a massive advantage to a heavily resourced retailer.”
Get in front of the Valuation Office Agency in person
Due to the cost of fighting a valuation with an expert, Wackett believes it may not be possible for small retailers to get the results they are looking for.
He told Retail Express “My advice for a small shopkeeper would be to have an informal discussion with the valuation office, even by going into the Valuation Office’s offices if there are any local to them.” It’s not necessarily going to be affordable for a smaller shop to fight.
Receive relief for unoccupied buildings or rooms
Empty buildings receive a 100% reduction on business rates – if a store has unused buildings classed as part of the premises such as garages or outbuildings, the proprietor can claim business rate relief for a minimum of three months. There is also the potential for discretionary relief from local authorities for unused space within a used building.
Councils will be strict with discretionary relief
Richard Wackett described why local authorities are unlikely to be generous with relief funding stating, “Councils aren’t equipped to allocate discretionary relief, they are under resourced and their policy position is going to be just say no. You’ll be very fortunate to get anything.”
He also added that because councils benefit from the revenue brought in by business rates (in replacement of central government funding), they have a firm interest in collecting as much as possible.
Employment may sway a council
Asked if there’s anything an independent shop owner can do to improve their chances, the expert from Montagu-Evans told Retail Express, “There’s definitely an employment issue, if a business employs a lot of people then there will be a reluctance to see them go under.”
Community is the key to securing relief
Though employment will have an impact, it’s not the most important thing to include on any business rate relief application. “The case has to be made on its merits, there’s a weighing up between the interests of the business and the interests of the community so if you weigh towards community’s interests it’s going to help your application.”
Get in touch: Had a recent experience with a business rate appeal or relief application? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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