ASR advises 50,000-strong nationwide business network

The country caught up with concerns about business rates as the subject became a key talking point in the Budget, and ASR was in demand from nationwide business group 4Networking to supply advise for its membership of more than 50,000.

We offered six tips to help businesses manage their rates and avoid unfair charges.

Be fair to yourself

Every business has a legal and moral responsibility to pay the fair business rates for which they are liable, and the safest and best way is to manage your rates in the same way that you would manage salaries and rent. That means adopting a proactive approach and making sure you are fair to yourself and to HMRC.

Winner, loser or don’t know?

For the 2017 revaluation, the Valuation Office Agency calculated the rateable value of a property based on its hypothetical rental value at 1 April 2015. Some businesses saw a reduction, a minority were hit by a big increase and many face confusion because of errors with the figures. Such errors may have resulted from information being inaccurate, delays in processing appeals and changes announced by the Chancellor in his Budget.

Relieving the pressure

There are various types of business rates relief including for rural areas, enterprise zones and charities. Small business rate relief is the most widespread and underwent a big change as part of the 2017 revaluation. The previous threshold of £6,000 was doubled, meaning that you qualify for 100 per cent relief if your property’s rateable value is less than £12,000. There is a sliding scale of relief to £15,000.

Check, challenge, appeal

A business can contest a ruling on its rateable value through the Valuation Office Agency’s “Check, challenge, appeal” process. It can be time-consuming, and if you go to a Valuation Tribunal you will face a fee of up to £300 which may be returnable if you succeed. We will check the facts on which your rateable value is based, and if appropriate we will challenge and try and secure a revised assessment by negotiation. We will also represent you in an appeal at the Tribunal if required.

Take care when taking advice

Anybody can embark on the “check, challenge, appeal” process but you risk wasting time and money if you don’t get expert advice. There are companies which will offer to help. They may charge you a fee for “obtaining” an “adjustment” which you would probably have secured anyway through a routine relief. As members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation and the Rating Surveyors’ Association we recommend you take the trouble to check consultants’ credentials.

Planning for change

By planning ahead you can help yourself and identify likely changes to your rates in advance. Influential factors may include extensions to your property, improvements to the part of a town or city in which you operate, or investment in substantial items of plant and machinery. You should consider the rating implications around these issues in the same way as you would when planning a move to new premises.