The Government must make the setting of business rates more open and transparent in order to cut the number of unnecessary appeals and reduce the cost of the Valuation Office Agency.

The Government must make the setting of business rates more open and transparent in order to cut the number of unnecessary appeals and reduce the cost of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

Statistics produced by the VOA throughout the life of 2010 rating list up until March 31, 2013, show 92,090 out of a total 338,370 challenges on the ratable value of a property were made to the list.

The VOA got it wrong on 27.22% of cases challenged. This is also against a backdrop of VOA’s statutory obligation to maintain an accurate list.

The VOA make much of the fact that 246,280 challenges resulted in no change to this list yet this must be the only field of taxation where a taxpayer is not provided with the full explanation of the derivation of his liabilities to enable him or her to judge its correctness or otherwise.

If the VOA was empowered, either by amendment to the legislation should this be required, or by a simple change of attitude and approach, to disclose the rental evidence on which they founded their valuation or valuation schemes, this would enable ratepayers and their advisers to audit assessments without the need for a formal challenge.

Valuations are based upon a notional rental value. The VOA admitted in a press release in 2012 that it holds only limited rental data. This serious deficiency leads to many appeals being lodged.

Figures produced by rating specialist CVS show that there is approximately a £2bn burden placed on UK businesses due to the backlog of over 180,000 appeals currently stuck in what many perceive as a slow and bureaucratic appeals process.

The performance of the VOA has improved somewhat but many point to the two-year postponement of the revaluation to 2017 in releasing additional resources for that. What is clear is that the VOA’s attitude to challenges needs to change from defending the list to dealing with the merits of the challenge.