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September 2015

Business rates appeal proposals are a 'barrier to justice'

The Enterprise Bill is currently going through Parliament. Part of the Bill reforms the business rates appeals system. The government’s changes have been criticised by rates experts and business groups, amid concerns that the changes will act as a ‘barrier to justice’.

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which is part of HMRC, is responsible for compiling and maintaining non-domestic rating lists. Currently officers of the VOA are prevented from sharing the information they collect about properties and ratepayers with local government. This means that businesses have to provide the same information twice to the VOA and local government. It can also mean that the properties have to be inspected by both the VOA and the local authority.

The Bill therefore allows the VOA to disclose information to a ‘qualifying person for a qualifying purpose’ such as a local authority.

The changes have been criticised by some people. They say the legislation will act as a ‘barrier to justice’ for businesses seeking to appeal.

Transparency around how business rates or tax on commercial property is measured has long been called for by small businesses. Critics of the bill claim that it has failed to address this issue, as it permits the VOA to share rate measurement information with local authorities but not with individual businesses.