Carter Towler: Reforming business rates appeals through Check, Challenge, Appeal

Friday 4th March 2016

Ken Whittington from Carter Towler tells law firm Gordons about the potential impact of the Check, Challenge, Appeal system for reforming business rates appeals.

In recent years there have been various discussions and consultations regarding the development and improvement of the current rating system. It is the government’s clear intention that all such cases be dealt with in a timely and efficient way.

The latest suggestion is to bring in a new system with effect from April 2017, comprising three stages: Check, Challenge and Appeal.

The Check stage will ensure that all relevant facts are validated by the ratepayer and agreed as far as possible. It is hoped that the rating list will be corrected at an early stage to reflect obvious errors of fact. If these cannot be agreed, the differences will need to be clearly established at this early stage.

The Challenge stage allows a ratepayer to challenge the actual rating list entry. The emphasis is clearly to be on the appellant, but they will have to set out their reasoning for any challenge and put forward an alternative rating list entry, likely including an alternative valuation backed by supporting evidence.  Where necessary, this will provide an opportunity for further discussion between the appropriate parties.  The intention is that the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) will issue a decision on whether the rating list will be altered and the level of any revised assessment.

The Appeal stage allows the ratepayer to appeal to the Independent Valuation Tribunal for England.  The tribunal will consider whether the VOA has made the correct decision in respect of the challenge, based upon the evidence put forward and exchanged at the challenge stage. If the Tribunal disagrees with the VOA’s decision, it may conclude that the ratepayer’s appeal is correct or – alternatively – may substitute its own valuation.

The government clearly hopes that the vast majority of cases will be resolved at the Check stage, without the need for any formal appeal. At present, the system is clearly overloaded with appeals, making it inefficient and cumbersome at times.

A consultation paper that ran from October 2015 to January 2016 suggested stricter time limits and for greater emphasis to be placed on the appellant to prove their case, with fewer speculative appeals to be submitted.

It will be interesting to see the results of this consultation paper, which was clearly set out to restrict superfluous and wasteful appeals. However, it may also restrict the basic right of ratepayers to challenge their own rating assessment and ensure that their liability is correct at all times.

The government’s intention is that this will become law in time for the next revaluation, which is due April 1 2017, and the outcome is therefore eagerly anticipated.

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