Experts brand business rate appeal system as a ‘car crash’

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The Government’s business rates appeals system has come under fire from retail experts who claim it is letting businesses down and described it as a “car crash that has already happened”.

Colliers International says that the Check, Challenge Appeal (CCA) system is “clearly not working” after the Government revealed that only 5,650 (0.3%) of the 1.85 million rateable properties in England have been contested following the 1 April 2017 Listing.

This is despite this being the day the largest changes to business rates in a generation had been published.

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The Government did not publish any figures on the number of cases that have made it to the appeal stage yet, but sources close to Colliers have suggested this figure is less than three cases.

John Webber, head of business rating at Colliers International, said: “It beggars belief that businesses are so happy with their rate bills in 2017 that hardly any one is contesting. We would argue the figures for 2017 are so low purely because ratepayers can’t navigate through the new system.”

The April 2017 Ratings list included significant rate increases across London and the South East, with some ratepayers seeing 50% to 100% on their rate bills, alongside a penal downward transitional scheme for the rest of the UK.

Since then there have been calls from industry bodies and individual businesses and retailers for relief from tough business rates.

Colliers claims that the ability to appeal against the new rateable values “adds insult to injury”, as businesses are unable to navigate through the Government portal to challenge their assessments.

Webber commented: “The Government introduced its new CCA Appeals system on the same day as the new Rating List despite the advice of rating experts who said it was unworkable at the time. Since then businesses have been really struggling to get registered; and even to claim that they are the ratepayer is a further hurdle. And that is before they get to the start of the check stage – a three-part appeal process, which many find unworkable and “not fit for purpose. Clients have been coming to us for advice as to what to do.”

In the Summer, Colliers conducted a FOI Request to the Government concerning CCA. The new system requires ratepayers to check the information held on the property by the Government as the first step in the process. Multiple properties held in a portfolio must each be claimed separately and the identity of the ratepayer must be proven with supporting documentation.

“The FOI Request revealed that 90% of the 850 respondents were dissatisfied with the new system and few felt it was working. There is no indication this percentage has decreased since,” said Webber. “We get requests for help every day.”

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