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Oppose ‘unfair’ changes to business rates, urges expert

Business owners should oppose the government’s latest changes to business rates, outlined in its most recent consultation, a property planning expert has argued.

Winchester high street

Winchester high street

Jerry Schurder, head of business rates at property consultant Gerald Eve, warned that the proposed changes will make the process of appealing much harder and could lead to overpayments.

Consultation on the most recent proposed updates to business rates legislation began on 16 August. They include changes to the “check, challenge, appeal” (CCA) process, ahead of the April 2016 revaluation of non-domestic properties.

Under the proposals, appeals against business rates assessment will only succeed if the Valuation Office Agency’s (VOA) initial judgment can be shown to be outside the bounds of “reasonable professional judgement”.

This additional onus of proof will make appeals more difficult and may lead to business owners overpaying millions of pounds in business rates, said Schurder.

As previously reported by Drapers, the VOA, which deals with appeals to business rates, is struggling to keep up with the volume of submissions. Subsequently, reforms have been proposed to make the CCA process more robust and root out baseless claims.

“There is no definition of what ‘reasonable professional judgement’ is. Nor does the consultation paper identify whether a similar provision applies elsewhere in legislation – we are not aware that it does – and there is no indication as to how the courts might be expected to apply such judgement,” Schurder warned.

“We consider this proposal to be manifestly unfair and a breach of natural justice. Businesses made abundantly clear to government in responses to its review of business rates, that it supported the bespoke nature of rating valuations which properly reflect the characteristics of each property,” he added.

Business owners have until 5pm on 11 October 2016 to respond to the government consultation.

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