Colliers blast government for ignoring the plight of over 400,000 businesses.
Latest CCA business rates appeals figures (to end March 2021) show that since 1 April 2020, just after the start of the first Lockdown, 409,430 checks (the first stage of the appeals process) have been registered by businesses, most of whom had been impacted by COVID-19.
This figure dwarfs the 158,910 number of checks registered in the previous three years - since the start of the list in April 2017 to end of March 2020 - and shows the total disruption to hundreds and thousands of businesses caused by COVID -19.
Last month the Government took the unprecedented step of announcing it would legislate that MCC appeals for businesses impacted by COVID-19 would not be valid for the appeal system; a move that was lambasted by the rating profession at the time.
As John Webber, Head of Business Rates at Colliers said, “These latest figures explain why the Government acted as it did and why its Valuation Office Agency (VOA) was allowed to change the law; to prevent 400,000 business rate payers who felt their bills were unfair from contesting them.
“It’s a disgrace. The Government ripped up the rule book retrospectively purely because the numbers were too high. Over 400,000 businesses had gone to the trouble of registering through the tortuous CCA appeals system in good faith, so that their cases could be properly assessed, to find the goal posts moved before their very eyes.”
He continued, “The government offered a £1.5 billion business rates relief fund instead but this comes nowhere near compensating what businesses have lost through the pandemic. And as the government has not begun the process of either putting local authorities in receipt of these funds or giving guidance on how to distribute them, businesses have so far received nothing and are unlikely to in the near future.”
“Given both the Smoking ban and Foot and Mouth were accepted as grounds for MCC appeals, it’s shocking that COVID-19 has been rejected, despite earlier assurances from the VOA. This is pure and simply retrospective legislation, amounting to a retrospective tax increase and created because dealing with the true problem is just too difficult."
Other figures of note revealed by the latest figures further illustrated how appallingly slow the appeals system remains in resolving those rate payers who had managed to get past the Check system. Of 101,260 Challenges to the list to date, there are still 66,370 outstanding, 4 years into the list. And of the 29,340 resolved, only 50% have been “agreed”.
A system worthy of a “Banana Republic” said Webber.