Debate Magazine

"Experts Slam Business Rates Appeals System"

Posted on the 07 February 2020 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth
From City AM:
Property experts today said the business rate appeals system is a "time bomb" as the backlog of claims and challenges spiked. Businesses could be waiting years for their challenges to be addressed due to the backlog of appeals, experts said.
Data from HM Revenue and Customs' Valuation Office Agency (VOA) showed that in the 33 months since the new system was introduced, 352,090 properties have started the appeal process. 

It's not the appeals system that's at fault here. if they make the appeals procedures cheaper, quicker and simpler to clear the backlog, then more people will appeal, creating a new back log.
The real cause of this is the fact that Rates are based on the market rental value of each individual building, where there will always be legitimate differences of opinion on which comparatives should be used, the condition of each particular building, how spaces within that building/plot should be classified etc.
Equally stupid is the fact this 'market value' is not the total rental value, but the total rental value minus the Rates themselves, so the effective rate (about 33%) is much lower than the headline rate (about 50%).
--------------------------------------------------------It would be far better to proceed as follows:
1. Assess whole streets (or whole shopping centres or whole retail parks etc) at a time, using all available data from recently agreed rents and selling prices on that street (or in that shopping center etc)
2. Work out the total rental value of all the premises on that street (with no reduction for the Rates payable, which is a circular calculation).
3. Divide that total by the total frontage of all the premises on the street to find a value per running foot of frontage.
4. The Rates bill for each premises is then simply the frontage (the most valuable element) multiplied by the answer from 3, minus a provisional 20% for those who accept the assessment. It would be payable by the owner, not the occupant (for administrative simplicity and to improve collection rates).-----------------------------------------------------------There would be very few appeals against that sort of system because... 
5. It is largely a data gathering and maths exercise, not questions of judgment. 
6.  The actual condition or size of a particular building would be pretty irrelevant, so the owner of a dilapidated building with no lift would pay the same amount per foot of frontage as the owner of a new building next door to it, which has a lift.  
7. Of course, sometimes assessments will be based on poor data or mathematically wrong. but this applies to the whole street, so instead of some occupants appealing against individual assessments, the owners of all the premises on the whole street (which might only be one or two landlords) can pool resources and do a joint appeal.
8. The 20% discount does not mean lower Rates overall, as the percentage payable would be increased accordingly. So instead of paying 40% on £10,000 (the probable actual value), you pay 50% on £8,000 (the discounted value).
9. If you 'win' your appeal and get the assessed value reduced from £10,000 to £9,000, you pay 50% of £9,000 (appellants waive entitlement to the discount). So before putting in an appeal, you would have to be confident you can get enough real world data to push the assessed value down from £10,000 to no more than £7,500 or so, which is going to be nigh impossible in most of the few cases where the assessments appear too high.

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