The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) this week issued its statistical release on challenges made by businesses to their rates.

The document reveals that as of September 30, 2016, the VOA had received 1.04 million challenges against the 2010 Rating List, with the pace of clearance falling massively short of expectations.

Just 64,000 appeals have been resolved this year, against the VOA’s own annual target of 153,000.

At this run rate, it will have to clear some 90,000 appeals in the next six months to meet the target.

The ‘leaky bucket’ of unresolved cases stands at a disheartening 280,000 and hasn’t moved for over 18 months, with some cases dating back to 2005.

“This week’s figures also suggest that only 29%, or 220,000 of the 1.04 million challenges resulted in rebates to businesses – but that figure is not all it seems”

The VOA is swimming upstream against a system which quite clearly doesn’t work for it and, to add insult to injury, it is being forced to slash a third of its resources by 2020.

This week’s figures also suggest that only 29%, or 220,000 of the 1.04 million challenges resulted in rebates to businesses – but that figure is not all it seems.

In reality, successful alterations to the 2010 List should include Valuation Office Notices, or VONs.

This is when a challenge to the assessment has been made, and a notice to alter the rateable value is agreed without it progressing through to full appeal. The result is the same: a change to the rateable value and reduced business rates bills for the ratepayer.

So why, I wonder, are these numbers not included in the statistical data or available for public viewing on the VOA website?

Successful challenges

I firmly believe businesses should be aware that the true chance of success in challenging business rates is much greater than what is being portrayed here.

I am utterly perplexed as to how our Government is allowing the VOA, which provides an invaluable service to businesses, be starved of the support it so clearly needs.

All the while, the Government is pushing forward with what will undoubtedly be another complex and convoluted process – ‘check, challenge, appeal’ – in addition to consulting on and trying to prepare for a more frequent business rates cycle.

It’s time the Government focused on resourcing the VOA, supporting it to clear the backlog of appeals so that we can begin the next Rating List with a clean slate.

  • Mark Rigby is chief executive of business rent and rates specialist CVS