One strike and you’re out!

CBRE warns Midlands businesses of changes to rating appeals

New changes to the rating appeal process could hinder businesses’ prospects of reducing their business rates liability.

According to the rating team at the Birmingham office of CB Richard Ellis, the changes, which came into force on 1 January this year, introduce new procedures to the appeal process which, if not followed, could mean appellants are denied their day in court.

Any business occupying commercial premises is liable for rates. The rateable value is based on an estimate the rental value, as assessed by the Valuation Office. Businesses are charged a fixed percentage of the rateable value which is levied by the government. Businesses wishing to challenge the charges allocated to their premises have just one chance to lodge an appeal against this value.

The Valuation Officer deals with appeals by placing them in an appeal programme.  This specifies a period within which discussions can take place with appellants.  However, if negotiations with the Valuation Officer fail to reach a conclusion, then the Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE) steps in and assigns a hearing date.

Under the new changes to the VTE appeal process, a number of procedures must be followed, including the submission of a statement of case, relating to the disclosure and exchange of information, which must be lodged within four weeks of the date of the hearing.

If the statement of case is not prepared within this timeframe, or is compiled incorrectly, businesses could have their case struck out by the VTE and will lose their appeal rights, since it is not possible to re-appeal on the same grounds.

Nigel Fletcher, an associate director in CBRE’s rating and taxation team in Birmingham, said:   “The new procedures are intended to streamline the VTE service so that only appeals which are genuinely in dispute and have been properly prepared end up before the Tribunal.  However, it does make it more difficult for ratepayers to access justice through their own efforts. It becomes more expensive to the ratepayer and will perhaps bring an end to a ratepayer’s day in court.

“The Valuation Office is beginning to programme appeals against the 2010 Rating List.  The VTE’s strike-out policy means it has perhaps never been more important for ratepayers in the region to seek professional advice from a reputable rating specialist in order to protect their interests. Businesses need to be aware that these new processes exist so that they can seek advice accordingly.”

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