Posted on 01 February 2017.

HMRC via the Valuation Office has been reviewing all business properties with the new assessments coming into effect on 01 April 2017 based on valuations as at April 2015.

This compares with the current assessments being based on rental values as at April 2010.

So not surprisingly, the reaction could well be, ‘”That’s great news on the increase in business rate relief but is that all going to be washed away by increases in rateable values?”. Certainly there are some dramatic examples of increases in some well-known buildings: Lords Cricket Ground 66.9%; London O2 Arena 141.5%; Bank of England 61.2% and Newport Pagnell motorway service area 97%. 

However there are also dramatic examples of reductions including some retail premises and pubs in Milton Keynes falling by up to 75% and the former Odeon Cinema ‘The Point’ in Milton Keynes falling by 71%.

In Northamptonshire the news is very good with the overall impact of the re-valuation being minus 1.6% in Northampton and in South Northamptonshire an overall increase of 5.8%.

One of the actions by government during this re-rating process is to try to reduce/limit the total number of appeals. There were some 900,000 appeals in regard to the 2010 valuation of which the government considered that 70% of these were unnecessary. So rather than necessarily improving the quality of the assessments, the Government has decided to change the appeals process and in effect make it a very hard journey to appeal the assessment.

Essentially the appeal process requires more input up front and must follow a ‘check, challenge and appeal process’. This is split down as follows;

Check – an online process for property owners to identify their properties and nominate an agent should it be required. It is important at this stage to confirm that the data held is correct as there are penalties for the provision of incorrect data.

Challenge – property owners then have four months from the conclusion of the check stage to submit a challenge if needed. This details the grounds of the challenge, the proposed valuation figure and the supporting evidence. A lower valuation figure cannot then be submitted once a challenge has been made even if new evidence becomes available. It is only at this point that the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) will release their evidence.

Appeal – the VOA’s decision (or indeed absence of one if 18 months has elapsed beyond the date of the challenge) can be appealed for a £300 fee. The new rules for appeals are very onerous and only information submitted at the challenge stage is admissible. Care must therefore be taken at the challenge stage to ensure that all data is submitted.

There is still a great deal of work to be done by the Government to get the new process up and running and indeed to refine some of the detail.

It remains to say that property owners should seek advice and guidance regarding the changes from a professional if they are not to fall foul of the new rates.