Businesses face losing out on five years’ worth of refunds on their business rates because of the Government’s controversial imposition of a looming deadline for appeals, warn real estate advisors Colliers International.

John Webber, Head of Rating at Colliers International, fears most businesses are unaware of a Government-imposed deadline of 1st April 2015 for appeals on their business rates valuations.

The deadline was “almost lost in the small print” of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in December 2014 with “certainly no attention drawn to it,” said Mr Webber.

He explained: “Despite having extended the time period for the revaluation of businesses on the ratings list from five to seven years (extended to 2017) they haven’t extended the period where businesses are entitled to appeal. 

“This means that whilst businesses will still be able to appeal between April 2015 and 2017, any refunds or savings will only be backdated to April 2015, meaning that businesses could lose out on five years’ worth of rebates.

“Making this announcement only weeks before the cut off is scandalous. The Government wants it both ways – an extension to the list but no extension to the appeal deadline.” 

Mr Webber said that the Government had not explained why this decision was made but believed it was designed to curtail the ability of businesses to appeal while giving it more certainty about what it collects in tax.

He said: “Most businesses won’t be aware of these changes. They haven’t been publicised and there are genuine concerns that less business rate savvy companies will really lose out. 

“We worry that the new deadline will cause panic with ‘cowboys’ in the industry persuading clients to appeal en-masse to the Valuation Office without the due diligence which could result in an increase in rates liability – ironically, also dating back five years.”

Mr Webber feared that the Valuation Office – which sets the rateable value for non-domestic properties – will be unable to cope with a flood of appeals prior to 1st April 2015, having only recently cleared a backlog of appeals made prior to September 2013.

He added: “No-one is ready for the impending change, neither businesses nor the Valuation Office and the Government doesn’t want the appeals to be made so it’s not highlighting this deadline to businesses.”

Colliers International has set up a hotline for businesses to call, to find out more about this issue and to find out whether they are entitled to a rebate:  0800 3583230