Retailers challenging business rates payments could be facing longer waits as experts predict the system could crumble under pressure from the number of appeals.
The Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which sets business rates, is yet to process 300,000 backlogged appeals, some of which date back to 2010.
However, the impending October deadline for 2017’s revaluation figures means that appeals are no longer its top priority.
In 2015/16, the Valuation Tribunal Service heard 22% fewer appeals cases than the previous year, as the VOA revaluated its top priorities.
“The decrease shows the pressure VOA resources are under as it diverts staff from handling appeals to revaluations,” said business rates analyst Paul Turner-Mitchell, warning that “something’s got to give”.
In extending the revaluation period, the VOA set a cut-off date for appeals, which has led to a mass influx of submissions.
In terms of new rates for 2017, Turner-Mitchell explained that big savings would not be on the cards because of a process ensuring revaluations were “revenue neutral”.
“A lot of businesses have high hopes that their rates will go down if their premises’ value has declined,” he said. “Transitional Release will mean massive rate changes come in gradually, for retailers experiencing both increasing and decreasing property values.”
Turner-Mitchell called for an overhauled system, where the right amount is refunded quickly to those with genuine appeals.
“The VOA is historically incredibly slow at processing appeals,” he said. “If you’re a small retailer with an appeal that has merit, it doesn’t stop the local council chasing you for money while you’re waiting for that to go through.”