Appeal hurdles blocking thousands of retailer claims every month

Thousands of retailers that want to appeal their business rates are being blocked by the Valuation Office Agency’s (VOA) new Check Challenge Appeal system.

Thousands of retailers that want to appeal their business rates are being blocked by the Valuation Office Agency’s (VOA) new Check Challenge Appeal system.

Figures uncovered by business rates experts CVS show just 550 appeals are being lodged every month, compared to 19,143 per month back in 2010 when the last revaluation occurred.

Paul Turner-Mitchell from CVS told Retail Express the reduction wasn’t due to decreased interest in appealing. He said: “Considering the astronomical increases businesses have faced this time around, if anything the number of appeals should be higher than last time.”

The fall in appeals is believed to be because the new appeals system is too complicated, which Turner- Mitchell called “a bureaucratic nightmare” and “not fit for purpose” due to website crashes, lengthy application forms and slow responses from the VOA. With roughly one in three appeals successful in 2010, the reduction in appeals means at least 6,000 businesses a month are losing out.

This directly contradicts former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke’s claims that the new system would only block ‘speculative appeals’ he claimed were “blocking up the system”.

JMA Chartered Surveyors director Andrew Bacon said the new system was building, not preventing, blockages. He said: “They’ve got around 250,000 appeals outstanding from the 2010 re-evaluation. Check Challenge Appeal would more aptly be named delay delay delay.”

Peter Wagg owns five newsagents in Canary Wharf, London. The rateable value of his three stores is higher than his rent, resulting in a £31,000 increase across his estate. Wagg hired property consultants Montagu-Evans to help appeal against the revaluation. “The system is loaded against the retailer,” Wagg told Retail Express. “It’s terrible and the whole system is flawed. I’ve been told to expect a three-year backlog.”

HMRC has refused to release the official figures on appeals, stating that they would be released “soon”, however it refused to confirm a date and the information appears to have been delayed compared to the usual timetable.

When Retail Express contacted HMRC about the system’s initial issues in May, HMRC said the appeal system was “working normally”, writing off reports of site problems as “teething issues.” . However, the VOA was forced to take the appeals system down on August 17 for an update to address the “stability of service” with a source at HMRC admitting that “people have had issues with the system”.

The update added basic functions which have been missing from the system since its launch, such as the ability to save an application in progress and changes to the appeal navigation. A Valuation Office Agency spokesperson said it was unfair to compare 2017 appeals figures to those in 2010. “The VOA is continuing to make improvements to the online check and challenge service,” they added.

Describing appeals under the previous system, they said: “Many did not result in any change in valuation, suggesting we needed a better approach. “The new system allows businesses to get their issues handled at an early stage, reserving the appeal route for those that most need it, saving them time and effort.”

Do it: Have you tried using the new Check, Challenge Appeal system to appeal your 2017 rates evaluation? Get in touch: jack.courtez@newtrade.co.uk or 020 7689 3371


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