Sunday 25 September 2016 3:07 pm

Business groups write to communities secretary Sajid Javid to campaign against changes to business rates

Groups representing retailers and small businesses have come together to write to communities secretary Sajid Javid to urge him to pull back on changes to business rates.

Business rates are being re-evaluated, and changes proposed for the way business rates are valued could "sink individual businesses into hardship", the lobby groups warned.

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Bosses of the British Chambers of Commerce, the British Property Federation, the British Retail Consortium, CBI, and the Federation of Small Businesses all wrote to Javid warning against powers being taken away from the body that administers business rates.

Under the government's changes, the Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE) will not be able to change an inaccurate business rate assessment if the inaccuracy lies within "the bounds of reasonable professional judgement."

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At the moment, the VTE can make changes when it see fit.

"If the draft legislation is introduced as proposed, we could arrive at a position where a ratepayer is required to over-pay tax by 10 per cent, or even more in some cases…for a period of up to five years because of a statutory restriction on the right of the VTE to correct matters," the groups said in the letter.

"Businesses that are already struggling may be pushed into insolvency, with smaller businesses particularly at risk."

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Jerry Schurder, head of business rates at property consultancy Gerald Eve, said: 

These wildly unfair proposals represent the government’s intention to grant itself the equivalent of papal infallibility and legislate away its errors, making hard-pressed businesses pay for the valuation agency's mistakes.

The government seemingly has no confidence in the valuation agency's assessments, in which case it needs to reform the valuation agency or the system, not penalise businesses by outlawing appeals.