Businesses face rating confusion from “nightmare” system

Businesses looking to check their rates liability following the recent round of changes are likely to be deterred by delays and complications built into a “nightmare” of an online system, according to ASR.

Adrian Smith said the new “check, challenge, appeal” website which is being phased in by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) could trip up a lot of users with processes which are rigid and time-consuming.

He said many business owners will need expert help to tackle the procedures and, faced with a waiting time of up to 18 months for a response from the VOA, they may decide not to bother.

Adrian added: “Businesses and their agents need to register with the Government Gateway, identify whether they should challenge their assessment and then start the procedure. Then they wait for up to 18 months, and some businesses could fold in that time.”

Under the revaluation process which came to a head in recent months, some businesses received a cut in the rateable value of their property, and some qualified for 100 per cent small business rates relief as the threshold was doubled to £12,000.

Others were hit with sizeable increases, prompting the Chancellor to try and soften the blow with measures in this year’s Budget. AS Rating’s view that the Chancellor’s provisions were inadequate is reinforced by the outline publication of the VOA’s procedures for rectifying faults.

The new rating list came into effect in theory on 1 April but the website is still under construction, with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors warning that completion is not due until late 2018.

Ratepayers who want to check the rating assessment of their properties must register through the Government Gateway, which may involve setting up a new account. They must also register the details of their agent if they decide to appoint one.

A ratepayer who wishes to challenge their valuation is asked to compare their property with others of similar age, size and character in their area. They must also set out why they think their valuation is incorrect. If their challenge is dismissed – or if the VOA has not responded within 18 months – they have the right to appeal to a Valuation Tribunal.

Adrian said: “The new website is the essential tool for businesses to check their valuations and, if appropriate, challenge and appeal. It is complicated and time consuming and has been imposed by the Government, who don’t seem to be aware of the problems it will cause. It is a nightmare and people will find it very difficult to deal with it.”