Business rate appeals: Agency calls in extra bodies to get on top of spiralling complaints

 
Oliver Gill
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The new business rates system came into force on 1 April (Source: Getty)

The agency charged with processing business rates appeals has been forced to ask for help as it grapples with spiralling numbers of queries and complaints.

The Valuations Office Agency (VOA) has drafted in help from the taxman in order to resolve problems in the service labelled as “not fit for purpose”, according to reports by the Sunday Times.

Meanwhile, research released today indicates 89 per cent of those using the VOA were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the service.

Read more: Treasury confirms business rates to be reformed in 2020

The new business rates system came into force on 1 April and requires rate payers to check the information held on the property by the VOA as the first step in the process. Multiple properties held in a portfolio must each be claimed separately and the identity of the rate payer must be proven with supporting documentation.

Analysis of comments obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by property firm Colliers highlighted the need for greater simplicity and clarity in the system.

Colliers' head of rating John Webber said: "Reading through the responses it is obvious that businesses are confused and frustrated by this new system, which is clearly restricting business owners' rights to appeal. The government ignored the advice of rating experts when it introduced ‘Check Challenge Appeal’ which we said was unworkable at the time, and despite our criticisms, rolled on ahead regardless."

At the heart of the problem is a Valuation Office Agency that is under-resourced and shrinking with layoffs and the closures of regional offices becoming the norm.

A spokesperson for the VOA said: “The VOA’s check and challenge service is a new service that we are continuing to improve based on customer feedback. We are working closely with our customers and their representatives to understand and address any concerns, especially for businesses who own or occupy multiple properties.

“The new system allows businesses to resolve any issues at the right stage, reserving the appeal route for those that most need it, and saving them time and effort.”

Read more: More business rates woe: bills to increase £1.2bn next year

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