An overhaul of the business rates appeals process has been put forward by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), in the hope it would improve investment in the sector.
In its submission to a HM Treasury consultation on the issue, the ACS welcomed the planned move to three yearly revaluations from the current frequency of every five years, as it would act as a better indication of how rateable values are tracking against the property market.
ACS also called for the simplification of the appeals process for business rates, which has been subject to significant delays and confusion since its introduction. As part of its recommendations on simplifying appeals, the submission calls for the ‘Check’ stage of the ‘Check, Challenge, Appeal’ process to be scrapped, speeding up the appeals process to free up funds that could otherwise be invested in business improvements.
The consultation also proposed a number of new requirements on retailers to move toward more accurate rates bills, including:
- A duty to notify the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) about property changes that affect business rates liabilities – for example, structural alterations, extensions or conversions. This would be done as changes are completed and via an Annual Confirmation Return
- The mandatory provision of rental and lease information – for example rent amounts and what it includes, agreed incentives, responsibilities and rent reviews
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We support the move to more frequent revaluations and streamlining the complex business rates appeals system. However, this must be coupled with proper resourcing of the VOA to accurately assess property taxes rather than leaving the vast majority of the administrative burden with businesses themselves.
“While welcome, more accurate rates and a better appeals system do not equate to proper reform of a system which still does not do enough to incentivise investment. We urge the Chancellor to continue looking at more ways to help businesses invest and drive economic recovery, starting with the long-awaited fundamental review of rates on which we expect to hear more in the Autumn.”
The government plans to publish final report on fundamental review of business rates in Autumn 2021 ”when there is more economic certainty”.