The business rates appeals process is ‘facing meltdown’ and risks starting the new revaluation period in 2017 with a massive overhang of unresolved cases, following today’s announcement by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) that 272,360 appeals were outstanding as at 31 March 2015.
The backlog has surged to such a high level following the government’s unexpected introduction of a 31 March 2015 deadline for backdated appeals. The figures reveal some 194,720 new appeals were lodged during Q1 in response to the deadline being imposed.
The government are in a difficult position with the VOA under strain.vGeorge Osborne will be under pressure to set a new clearance target in his post-election Budget next month. However, with some of the most complex cases still to be dealt with and VOA resources being diverted to prepare for the 2017 revaluation, progress with unresolved cases is actually slowing: the VOA processed 145,000 appeals during 2014/15, but has been tasked with resolving only 90,000 claims during the current year.
A combination of the high backlog and a slowing in the number of claims being processed has in addition raised the prospect of the next revaluation cycle beginning in April 2017 with a huge number of cases – some dating back as far as 2010 – still outstanding.
Howard Elliott believes that; “The appeals system is in crisis and facing meltdown. The VOA has found itself in the impossible position of being asked by the Government to drastically reduce the number of outstanding cases, while at the same time facing a surge in new appeals and having to reallocate scarce resources to prepare for the impending revaluation.”
He fears that “It is ratepayers who will ultimately suffer the most, facing lengthy delays not only in having current appeals resolved but also any appeals against the 2017 revaluation assessments. The worry is that the Government will use the current level of outstanding cases to introduce punitive measures in an effort to discourage appeals.”
“With the Government currently undertaking a review of the structure of business rates, for which representations were required by 12 June, there are fears that it will present the number of appeals as proof that ratepayers can’t be trusted, using this as a justification for introducing measures making it more difficult and costly to appeal against rates assessments. Indeed, the recent Queen’s Speech included provision for a new Enterprise Bill, which is to include clauses ‘modernising the appeals system’.”
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25th June 2015