PRESSURE ON BUSINESS RATES ASSESSMENTS CONTINUES

The second year of the 2010 List Rating Revaluation is now under way, and most ratepayers will have now received their new rates bills for the 2011/12 rate year. The small business non-domestic rating multiplier, applicable to those that qualify and apply for small business relief, has been set at 42.6p in the . The supplement adopted by the government to fund the small business relief has been confirmed at 0.7p for the 2011/12 rate year, leading to a general non-domestic multiplier of 43.3p in the . The transitional relief arrangements introduced by the government at the start of the rating revaluation, designed to phase in large increases and decreases in rating liabilities between the 2005 and 2010 Rating Lists, are set to continue.

A significant change that has come into effect from 1 April 2011 is the reduction in the threshold below which empty properties are exempt from rates from 18,000 in the 2010/11 rate year to 2,600 in the 2011/12 rate year. This means that many ratepayers responsible for empty properties with a relatively small rateable value who had not been liable for any rates bills for the 2009/10 and 2010/11 rate years may well now be faced with a full rates bill. Ratepayers are therefore having to look more closely than ever before at their empty rates strategies.

The 2010 List rating appeals have now started to be programmed by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). The appeal procedure has altered for the 2010 Rating List, such that the onus is very much now on the appellant to prove why it is felt that the relevant rating assessment is wrong, rather than the VOA having to defend the List and prove why a particular rating assessment is correct. This will undoubtedly lead to much more work having to be done by ratepayers and their agents/representatives in challenging Rateable Values through the appeal process.

The Rating Surveyors Association (RSA) retail rating forum has set up a network of Town Committees, as it did for the 2005 List Rating Revaluation, designed to coordinate the collation of relevant rental evidence to validate or challenge the VOA's retail "tone" figures applied to the main retail pitches within identified towns and cities across the country. The intention is that through constructive dialogue between VOA representatives and the ratepayers' consortia, underlying levels of value assumed by the VOA can be scrutinised. If such values are found to be excessive based on all the evidence available, it is envisaged that the VOA would then adjust the prevailing "tone", accordingly.

Meetings are scheduled to take place next month between the VOA and the ratepayers consortia to discuss Carlisle and also the towns of Keswick, Kendal, Barrow in Furness, Workington and Whitehaven. Iain Henderson of Carigiet Cowen has been appointed as Chairman of the Carlisle RSA Town Committee. "Having an open dialogue with the VOA to scrutinise rental evidence around the Antecedent Valuation Date of 1 April 2008, and to review values put on retail rating assessments in light of this exercise has to be to everyone's benefit", says Mr Henderson. "The VOA can be satisfied that they are maintaining a fair and reasonable Rating List, and ratepayers can be assured that their rating assessments are supported by verified rental evidence, and early action taken to rectify any over assessments."