The government has been urged to clarify its position on business rates appeals after promising to provide a fair system in a consultation response published in the wake of yesterday’s Budget.

In the consultation response, the Department for Communities and Local Government said it wished “to provide a fair opportunity to all businesses to enter the appeals system, including small businesses”.

But the Association of Convenience Stores accused the government of publishing a “muddled” response to rate reform.

The document states that the government “will not impose an arbitrary fixed percentage boundary” on whether valuations are within the bounds of reasonable professional judgement, and it will instead be for the VTE (Valuations Tribunal England) “to take a view, based on the available evidence, on whether they consider the valuation to be reasonable”.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Under the cover of the Budget, the government have published a muddled business rate reform response in the hope that nobody notices. The language on rates appeals may have been marginally changed, but the problems still remain.

“Whether the term is ‘reasonable professional judgement’ or a view from the VTE on whether a valuation is reasonable, business may still be denied an accurate rating assessment. Businesses need absolute clarification from government that if their rates bills are found to be too high, they will not end up overpaying.”

The ACS wrote to the communities secretary along with other organisations in September last year, raising concerns that the planned changes to the appeals process would leave businesses out of pocket even when their appeals are successful.