Check, Challenge, Appeal – Could the Enterprise Bill Ensure A Fairer Business Rates System?

In the Government’s proposed Enterprise Bill, significant changes have been made to the appeals system for business rates. Many business groups have been calling for root and branch business rates appeal reform for some time due to huge delays occurring in the past.

Currently, appealing business rates is a free but multifaceted process. As can be seen on the Valuation Tribunal’s website for business rates appeals, there are a number of steps to be taken into account.

The new appeals process known as “check, challenge, appeal” demands an entry fee but has been welcomed by both the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) as more streamlined.

Such groups are hoping that the new system could result in businesses obtaining much fairer business rates. However, this will demand greater transparency over rateable values, and the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is presently unable to reveal evidence behind earlier valuations due to legislation.

What does the new business rates appeal system of “check, challenge, appeal” mean?

The new system, which is currently going through parliament, consists of three stages following an entry fee:

  1. Check – the initial stage will see businesses ensuring their rateable value and business rates information is correct and rectifying agreed errors quickly;
  2. Challenge – the next step will allow businesses to challenge their rateable value with the VOA who will then provide a judgement;
  3. Appeal – the final part offers businesses the opportunity to appeal their judgement to the Valuation Tribunal.

As it stands, ratepayers will have to enter the tribunal to discover what information has led to the valuation of their property. However, there are hopes that this can be brought forward to save time for both ratepayers and the VOA.

Early transparency will be essential

Although the procedure seems much simpler, there are concerns about the degree of transparency that will be involved. For example, if it transpires that it will take years for businesses to discover the facts behind their business rate valuation, they may be deterred from using the new system.

In order for “check, challenge, appeal” to improve the current situation, ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls has suggested that full disclosure of rental valuation should be given at the earliest opportunity. If this does not occur, “the Government may find itself dealing with numerous, time consuming appeals that make life easier for nobody”.

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