Government agency battling a broken business rates system as latest statistics reveals a disheartening backlog of appeals and questionable success rates

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) this week released its statistical release in challenges made by business to their rates. The document reveals that as of 30 September 2016, the VOA has received 1.04million challenges against the 2010 Rating List, with the rate of clearance falling massively short of expectations.

Just 64,000 appeals have been resolved this year- against the VOA’s own annual target of 153,000. At this run rate, they’ll have to clear some 90,000 appeals in the next six months to meet their target.

The ‘leaky bucket’ of unresolved cases stands at a disheartening 280,000 – and hasn’t moved for over 18 months, with some cases dating back to 2005. The VOA is swimming upstream against a system which quite clearly doesn’t work for them, and to add insult to injury, they’re being forced to slash a third of their resources by 2020.

This week’s figures also suggest that only 29%, or 220,000 of the 1.04million challenges resulted in rebates back to businesses; but that figure is not all it seems.

In reality, successful alterations to the 2010 List should include Valuation Office Notices, or VON’s. This is when a challenge to the assessment has been made, and a notice to alter the Rateable Value is agreed without it progressing through to full appeal. The result is the same - a change to the Rateable Value and reduced business rates bills for the ratepayer. So why, I wonder, are these numbers not included in the statistical data or available for public viewing on the VOA website? I firmly believe that businesses should be aware that the true success rate of challenging business rates is much greater than what is being portrayed here.

I am utterly perplexed as to how our Government is allowing the Valuation Office Agency, which provides an invaluable service to businesses, be starved of the support it so clearly needs. All the while, the Government is pushing forward with what will undoubtedly be another complex and convoluted process by way of ‘Check. Challenge. Appeal.’, in addition to consulting on and trying to prepare for a more frequent business rates cycle.

It’s time the Government focussed on resourcing the VOA; supporting them to clear the backlog of appeals so that we can begin the next Rating List with a clean slate.

For all the latest business rates news, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out our Google Plus and YouTube sites.