Government changes tack on business tax

The Government has made a U-turn on its plans to make it harder for firms to challenge their business rates bill after a number of business lobbying groups opposed the policy.

Industry bodies including the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have all been campaigning against the revamp of the appeals process and are delighted at the decision, calling it a “victory for common sense”.

The Government had claimed that too many businesses were abusing the appeals system and promised to tighten it but business leaders said there were so many appeals because the Government had delayed the standard, five-year revaluation of all business premises from next year to 2017.

Business rates are currently based on property valuations from the peak of the market in 2008, which campaigners say is unfair, and they were concerned that the Government’s proposals would make it even more difficult for businesses to challenge their business rates bill.

There is now a backlog of appeals at the Valuation Office Agency because the Government postponed the revaluation scheduled for 2013 and some campaigners are saying that the Agency itself needs a fundamental overhaul.

The Government said it wanted to make the appeals process more transparent while also reducing the backlog of appeals but campaigners believe that its proposals would have required businesses to provide even more details and explanations about their challenge.

It would appear that ministers have listened these arguments, as in an open letter published last week, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said it will ‘fold the consideration of reform of the business-rates appeals process into the broader review of business rates administration, which is considering longer-term reform taking effect after the next revaluation in April 2017’.

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