News In Focus
Business rates appeal system up for review
A public consultation has opened on how to speed up the appeal process against valuations of business premises for the purposes of charging rates – but the Scottish Government has no specific proposals on which comments are invited.
In its paper the Government states it is "committed to improving the valuation appeals system, provided it is affordable to do so". Any changes, it says, "should, as a minimum, be cost neutral".
A 2012 consultation on reforms to the business rates system found that many respondents felt the appeals system was cumbersome, time-consuming and costly for ratepayers, who often have limited understanding of the system and need to pay professional advisers to assist with an appeal. Hence this separate review, which does not propose changing the underlying principle of business rates as a property-based tax, the way property is valued or the way business rate reliefs operate.
The paper sets out that the appeal system should be easy to use, and offer sufficient opportunity for ratepayers to understand their rateable value and to challenge this where there is evidence the value has been set too high. It should also minimise delays to resolution of appeals.
While ministers do not propose to remove the right of appeal, the paper states that "the current system provides considerable incentive to lodge speculative or blanket appeals, which can create holdups in the system for those with a well founded and evidence based appeal". One option to reduce the number of appeals lodged would be to charge a fee for lodging an appeal. This would bring the process into line with wider court processes, where the policy objective is full cost pricing.
Respondents are however invited to submit views on a range of possible issues, including exchanges of information, improvements to availability of rental evidence, valuation appeal committee procedures and timetables, whether it should be possible for the rateable value of a property to be increased as well as decreased at appeal (as is the case in England), limiting the number of appeals per property, and introducing new penalties for those who fail to provide evidence or are deemed to abuse the system.
Click here to access the consultation. The deadline for responses is 6 March 2015.