What is a Business Rates Valuation Tribunal?
We look at the Business Rates Valuation Tribunal process and what you can do if you think you’re paying too much.
What are business rates?
Business rates are paid by businesses to support services in their local communities. These include transport infrastructure, roads, policing and fire services as well as less high-profile services such as marketing for the local area to attract more business and visitors and increase the revenue the council has to spend.
The new business rates will come into effect on 1 April 2017 but business owners were informed of their new RV on 30th September 2016. It’s been six years since the last review and eight years since properties were valued for rating, so many business owners were steeling themselves for what could have been a shock when they opened the envelope containing the new level of rates.
Appeals via a tribunal
If you’re one of the unlucky ones whose business rates have soared, you have the right to appeal the decision.
The process is as follows:
- Firstly, double check that the amount you’re being asked to pay is correct. The government has an online tool to enable you to check your rateable value as well as one to compare your property to other similar ones in your local area. You can contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA)’s regional offices to discuss the matter with them and make your argument for a reduction. In most cases the VOA will review the information you’ve sent them and amend their records to resolve the issue without the need for a formal appeal process.
- In some cases, however, an agreement cannot be reached. In these circumstances, you can appeal against the decision. You can appeal online or download a form which you can post to your local VOA office. You should read carefully through the guidance notes which will explain who can appeal, in which circumstances and on which grounds you can make an appeal, the time limits and the formal procedure which you must follow. If you are appealing on hardship grounds, you must make this very clear on your form. The appeal process is free and you can do it yourself. Please note that it is important to continue paying your rates during the appeal process.
- When you have submitted your appeal and the supporting documents, the VOA will acknowledge receipt and allocate a case number to you. They will check that your appeal is valid, based on the information you’ve supplied. You should note that this validation means that your appeal meets the ‘statutory requirements for completion’ not that they agree that your rates have been set at the wrong level.
- If the VOA decides that your appeal is invalid they will write to you and explain their decision and offer other options available to you. If they believe that your appeal is valid, they will write to you to keep you informed of the process and when your case will be discussed. The VOA prioritises cases where valuation mistakes have been made or in instances of financial hardship. Your appeal will then move onto a programme for discussion, with a timescale of which you will be informed. You will be invited to participate in the discussion to outline your argument. Your argument must contain any relevant factual discrepancies, evidence to support your case, and an alternative valuation based on your previous research. You should prepare this information at least two weeks before the start of the discussion process as any delay will hinder progress.
- If you’re not happy with the outcome of the discussion process, you can take your case to appeal which will be heard by the Valuation Tribunal at a public hearing. These work differently depending on whether you live in England or Wales. Here, we will be discussing England. The Tribunal will attempt to arrange a hearing within six months and will try to give you six weeks’ notice. You will need to prepare a written Statement of Case (SoC) for the VOA, the Tribunal and your local authority at least six weeks in advance of the hearing. In this you’ll need to outline the disputed issues, set out your desired outcome and present your evidence and arguments. You should receive the VOA’s SoC four weeks before the hearing. At the hearing you’ll be required to explain to the Tribunal why your argument should be accepted. If you are successful, the Tribunal will instruct the VOA to amend its ratings listing. The Tribunal also has the authority to propose its own value or it may accept the VOA’s original decision.
The appeal and Tribunal process can seem time-consuming and overly-bureaucratic but can be worth the effort to save thousands of pounds per year. If you need any advice on appealing a business rates decision or the Tribunal process contact a member of our team. Our RICS-qualified business rates experts can talk you through the process and offer you support when you need it most.
Written by: Craig Newton on Monday 03/10/2016