Hundreds of thousands of businesses still stuck in the Appeals system as they await promised COVID-19 Reliefs.
Latest CCA business rates appeals figures (to end September 2021) show that since 1 April 2020, just after the start of the first lockdown, 446,620 checks (the first stage of the appeals process) have been registered by businesses against their business rates bills, most of whom had been impacted by COVID-19.
This means nearly three quarters of the total 605,530 appeals registered since the 2017 Rating List began - four and a half years ago - were registered in the last 18 months and shows the total disruption to hundreds and thousands of businesses caused by the pandemic.
Last March, concerned about the enormous number of MCC appeals lodged by businesses impacted by COVID-19, the Government took the unprecedented step of announcing it would legislate that such appeals would not be valid for the appeal system, a move that was lambasted by the rating profession at the time. Instead, the government offered a £1.5 billion business rates relief fund, which would “get cash to affected businesses in the most proportionate and equitable way.”
Six months on, the legislation relating to COVID-19 MCC provisions has still not passed through Parliament and become law and there are no signs it will be passed in the immediate future. As a result, not a penny of the fund has been paid out. Hundreds and thousands of businesses are therefore still stuck in the appeals system, with no obvious way forward.
As John Webber, Head of Business Rates at Colliers said “The Chancellor was very silent on the matter of the compensation to businesses who had lodged COVID-19 MMC appeals when he discussed business rates in the Budget last week. As far as we are aware, neither the Government nor the billing authorities have engaged with the ratings industry or set out any guidance for businesses to apply to receive the relief fund promised. We are still very much in the dark.”
“As a result, we have over 400,000 businesses who paid their full rate bills during the pandemic, despite the disruption to their businesses, and are stuck in No Man’s land, with no clear way forward. The Government ripped up the rule book retrospectively and those hundreds of thousands of businesses who had gone to the trouble of registering through the tortuous CCA appeals system in good faith, have found the goal posts moved before their very eyes. It’s a disgrace!"
Other figures of note revealed by the latest CCA figures further illustrate how appallingly slow the business rates appeals system remains in resolving those rate payers who had managed to get past the Check system. Of 112,260 Challenges to the list to date, there are still 63,780 outstanding, 4.5 years into the list. Three months ago, this figure was 63,800.
"A system clearly not working” said Webber.