New statistics show that the business rates appeals system is creaking under pressure, with a lack of resource at the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
According to government statistics, in the first sixth months of the new 2023 list (1st April to 30th September, 2023), 30,950 checks (the first part of the appeal process) were registered, of which almost 40% (12,160) remain outstanding.
Only 2,530 have progressed to the challenge stage, and of these challenges only 180 have been resolved (7%). In addition, 8.3 % of all challenges have been labelled as ‘incomplete’ by the VOA and, therefore, void.
Given the difficulty for businesses in registering a check in the Check, Challenge, Appeal (CCA) system in the first place, so that most businesses having to use professional rating surveyors because of the amount of details required, commercial property agency Colliers says this level of rejection, often on a technicality, is unacceptable and shows how arduous the system is for ratepayers.
Colliers also questions the system whereby the VOA has four months to decide whether a challenge is valid, but on receiving the news that the challenge is incomplete, the rate payer or their adviser can, in many cases, only be given 24 hours to dispute this.
The latest figures reveal 37,470 challenges against the 2017 list are still outstanding. This means, almost seven years after the start of the 2017 rating list, 21% of the appeals submitted have not been resolved.
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“The VOA’s lack of progress in resolving these high appeal numbers should certainly raise eyebrows,” said John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers.
“The figures today reveal that the VOA is seriously under pressure. Given the government’s promise of three-yearly revaluations, the next list will be in 2026 with a valuation date of April 1st, 2024. The VOA will, therefore, need to get working on this next year.
“We believe the VOA is under-resourced to deal with the new list and the backlog we are still seeing from the 2017 list as well as the current 2023 list. Against this background, it is perhaps not surprising that there has been pressure to reduce the challenges from the 2023 list, with so many now labelled incomplete and thus void, despite the fact that most of these have been submitted with professional help. None of this bodes well for any business trying to appeal their business rates.”
He added: “The VOA keeps trying to frustrate ratepayers in appealing their rating assessments, but even with the hurdles in place, businesses are continuing to challenge their assessments.
“The suggestion that CCA is working has been blown out of the water with these statistics. The burden of business rates is too high and the lack of transparency about how their bills are arrived at is the root cause of this shocking number of people trying to appeal their rate bills.”