Government has ignored business rates experts in its consultation on reforming the business rates appeals’ system, according to Colliers International, the global commercial real estate agency and consultancy.

In its response to the government consultation, ‘Check, challenge, appeal – reforming business rates appeals – consultation on statutory implementation’, Colliers has accused the government of proposing an appeals’ regime that is “more confrontational, more litigious and more costly.” 

It goes on: “if the proposals become law without significant changes, then the new system of dealing with appeals will severely restrict the business owners’ rights to appeal.” 

The deadline for responses to the consultation comes only weeks after the largest changes to business rates in a generation were published. This includes significant rates increases across London and the South East alongside a downside transitional scheme for the rest of the UK that offers little respite to ratepayers in the depressed areas.

John Webber, Head of Rating, Colliers International, said:

“This consultation is not a genuine listening exercise: the advice of rating experts has been categorically ignored. Government has decided to restrict business owners’ rights to appeal and there is nothing that we – or the whole industry – can do to prevent this going ahead. The proposals are an affront to natural justice and a clear infringement of ratepayers’ rights.

“With over 300,000 outstanding appeals still in the system, it is as if ratepayers are being penalised for exercising their right to question their business rates bill by making it more expensive and more difficult. At the heart of the appeals’ problem is a Valuation Office Agency that is under-resourced and shrinking with 1,000 people about to be laid-off and the closure of 17 regional offices. This so-called consultation is a shambles."

Colliers Manifesto for Business Rates Reform:

1.     More frequent revaluations, three-yearly, at least, by 2022;
2.     Increase funding for VOA in order to deal with existing appeals’ backlog;
3.     Release VOA from pressure exerted by local councils and HM Treasury;
4.     Introduce a register of appeals professionals  – removing the ‘cowboy’ element;
5.     Iron out inequalities where small business pays a higher proportion in business rates;
6.     Root and branch reform of current business rates exemptions and reliefs.