The Government has announced plans to end the 'decades-long deadlock' of business rates appeals, with a new, more streamlined process.
Under the proposals, published by Local Government Minister Marcus Jones, business owners will be able to check and challenge their business rates bills using a more efficient, user-friendly appeals system.
It aims to 'weed out' speculative appeals that 'clog up the system'. According to figures released by the Government, over 850,000 appeals have been submitted against rating valuations for the 2010 Rating List. Around 70% of appeals currently result in no change to the rateable value and less than 2% proceed to a tribunal hearing.
The Government says that the majority of appeals are submitted by agents, many of whom operate a ‘no win-no fee’ basis, 'putting in protective or speculative appeals, with no supporting evidence, sometimes for businesses who are unaware this is being done on their behalf'.
Jones said: 'The business rates appeals process has been in a decades-long deadlock, hampered by some unscrupulous agents making speculative appeals – sometimes for businesses unaware this is being done on their behalf.
'A key part of our long-term economic plan is to turn this around and streamline the system, which is why we’re proposing a straight-forward 3-stage process so people can check and challenge their valuations and be confident they’ll get a fair deal.'
The new system would see a new 'simple' online service launched by the Valuation Office Agency, to submit and track cases. A fee of between £100-£300 will be charged for appeals, refundable if successful.
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) says it welcomes the proposals. Brigid Simmonds, chief executive: 'We very much agree that the system needs to be streamlined. The BBPA had called for modest fees, and specifically that they be refundable where the challenge is successful, which is what is now being proposed.'
The deadline for responses to the consultation is January 4, 2016.