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Don't fall foul of rates appeals process

The new business rates appeals system in England has flummoxed shop owners with ratepayers “tearing their hair out”, rating experts at Colliers International have claimed.

The government launched the new system, Check, Challenge, Appeal (CCA) on April 1 2017 – the date new new business rates based on the latest property revaluations also took effect.

The three-stage process requires businesses to:

First: CHECK their rating assessment – a lengthy series of online questions must be answers

Second: Decide whether to CHALLENGE – another barrage of online questions

Third: APPEAL – at a cost of £150 for small businesses.

A system of penalties has been put in place for businesses submitting incorrect information during any of the phases.

The government’s aim was to create a  more modern system that weeded out speculative appeals but it appears to have deterred businesses across the board.

Colliers says only 1.3% of the 1.85m rateable properties in England bothered to navigate step one of the process, alone, in the year to the end of March 2018.

John Webber, head of business rating at Colliers, said: “It beggars belief that businesses are so happy with their rate bills in 2017 that hardly any one is contesting. It is pretty obvious that the figures are so low purely because despite claims otherwise, ratepayers still can’t navigate through the new system. 

“We get requests for help every day - ratepayers are tearing their hair out.”

A Valuation Office Agency spokesperson said the previous appeals system was broken and encouraged speculative appeals - about 70% of appeals did not result in any change in valuation. "Our check and challenge service allows customers and their agents to check their property details and then choose whether to make a challenge or not. This is how the service was designed to work.

“We have revised our plan for delivering digital improvements to the check and challenge service. This reflects close working with groups representing our customers, and we are grateful for their support in helping us establish their priorities.”

Until flaws in the new system are ironed out the best advice is:

  • Don’t begin the process unless you are convinced you have been substantially over-rated
  • Ensure that at each stage of the process you are armed with correct information
  • It may pay to get the help of a ratings expert to navigate CCA for you but check their credentials, don’t pay upfront fees and weigh up the costs against the potential gain
  • If you are brave enough to navigate CCA yourself further information is available here

Andrew Don

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