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LGA calls for billing authorities to have ability to be parties to business rates appeals again

The Local Government Association (LGA) has said that billing authorities in England should have the ability restored to be party to business rates appeals.

In its response to the Government’s Business Rates Revaluations Consultation, which closed on Tuesday (24 August), the LGA said: “Billing authorities should be allowed to be parties to appeals as was the case before the introduction of ‘check, challenge and appeal’.

“Local authorities frequently have an interest in strategically important ratepayers, particularly given the implications for business rates retention and they should be allowed access to the process in order to be able to submit evidence which will help the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) or the tribunal to come to a view.”

The LGA also called for English councils to gain similar powers to those in Wales over information related to business rates.

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It noted there would be measures for ratepayers to provide information to the VOA and said there should be similar ones for information to billing authorities “where this would enable councils to discharge their functions effectively, relating for example, to determining liability and eligibility for reliefs”.

The LGA said the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 gives billing authorities powers to seek information for the purposes of non-domestic rating, require ratepayers to supply to billing authorities information relevant to determining liability to business rates and gave billing authorities powers to inspect properties.

“We would like to see these provisions introduced in England at the same time as the requirement to provide information to the VOA for valuation purposes.”

The British Property Federation (BPF) meanwhile said in its consultation response that business rate revaluations should move to an annual cycle, not just the three-yearly one proposed by the Government.

It said the system was “broken [as] the tax has failed to respond to significant changes in the UK economy.

"While rents in the retail sector outside of London have come down by over 50% in real terms over the last decade, business rates bills paid by occupiers have continued to rise.”

The BPF also rejected proposals to restrict property owners’ rights to make appeals where they are not the ratepayer.

BPF chief executive Melanie Leech said: “The business rates system is undermining town centre recovery and poses a significant risk to the future of our high street businesses. Business rates have become so unaffordable, they are now hampering town centres’ ability to adapt, modernise and thrive.”

Ms Leech said removing owners’ rights to appeal would be unjust because they had a legitimate need to interact with the rating system - including where they are not the ratepayer - so that they could effectively market their properties and secure new tenants.

The Government said three-yearly revaluations would allow changes in economic conditions to feed through more rapidly into businesses’ liabilities.

This was based on responses to a consultation last year in which a majority of respondents called for more frequent revaluations with approximately half in favour of three years, which gained greater support than any other period, it said.

Mark Smulian

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