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Business Rates: Top 10 tips

Colliers International

Property owners’ and occupiers’ business rates have changed from 1 April 2017.

This is a tax that is often misunderstood.

Below Colliers International Director for Rating, Adam Burke, shares his top ten tips on how to manage this tax:

1 Review your Rating assessment now to avoid delays

Every commercial property has had its Rateable Value revalued effective from 1 April 2017.

Each of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and ROI has its own system.

Take professional advice if you are not sure whether your assessment is correct.

2 Check your liability for the new rate year

The new rate year is upon us.

Review your liability now and take up any issues now with the Billing Authority to have your bill amended as soon as possible.

3 Understand your liability

As well as knowing your Rateable Value, you will need to factor in changes to reliefs such as Transitional Relief and Small Business Rates Relief.

These are complicated and it is recommended that you take professional advice to understand these matters.

4 Act immediately

Examine the factual information in your Rateable Value assessment on the Valuation Officers’/Assessors website to ensure accuracy.

Take action to inform the Valuation Office of any errors as soon as possible.

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) have thousands of appeals from the 2010 list outstanding.

The sooner you make representations to the VOA, the sooner the matter can be investigated by the VOA.

5 Should I appeal?

Every occupier has the right to challenge the Rateable Value set on a property.

This doesn’t mean you always should! Take professional advice if unsure.

6 Get the right advice

Getting good advice from an expert leaves you free to get on and run your business.

Make sure your advisor has the right accreditations and experience to handle your needs.

Be wary on any company that claims they can achieve a reduction without first inspecting your property.

Don’t be rushed in to making any on the spot decisions, seek comparisons for the service you require and ensure you are happy with all terms and conditions you are signing up to.

7 New Check Challenge and Appeal system in England

This new English appeals system came into effect on 1 April 2017.

It is considerably more onerous for the ratepayer.

A fee of up to £300 will be payable to the Valuation Tribunal for the Appeal stage.

All the more reason for seeking professional advice.

Register for the system as soon as possible to avoid delays.

8 Material Change in Circumstance Appeals

If you find your business is affected by a change in the locality such as a competitor store opening/road closures/building works, then there may be scope to secure a temporary business rates reduction.

If an appeal is appropriate, ensure the appeal is lodged during the period of the works.

9 Vacant property?

As a property owner with a vacant property, you receive a double hit.

Not only are you not receiving rent, but you are liable for the rates.

This has forced many landlords to dispose of void properties at a reduced cost, devaluing the asset and effecting the market.

However, you have the right to legitimately mitigate these costs, again seek the right advice on this and avoid scams and damage to reputation.

10 Audit your business rates calculations

Local Authorities invoice in excess of £20bn in business rates each year which means that invariably there are going to be mistakes in how they are calculated from a Rateable Value set years previously.

This is harder to challenge without help so ask your advisor if they provide audit services for your rates bills (many will work on a performance basis).