End in sight for Covid business rate appeals

Before anyone gets too excited I’m not about to tell you that the Valuation Office has reached an agreement across the board and agreed that all rateable values should be reduced due to Covid.

There has been a flurry of news articles in the last few months claiming that a 25% reduction in office rateable values had been agreed but the VO and the Rating Surveyors Association were quick to respond and correct this by saying that no formal decision had been made and discussions are still ongoing.

With schools now back, a roadmap to the post-Covid world in place and lockdown restrictions about to ease further, it looks like the window is closing for those who haven’t yet raised an initial check against their rateable value. The VO has conceded that Covid is a Material Chance in Circumstances but ratepayers have to take initial action whilst Covid is still causing a problem and the MCC issue still physically manifest. Whilst the full extent of any potential agreement isn’t yet clear its essential to take action before lockdown restrictions ease – if you haven’t taken action already then I’d urge you to act quickly otherwise the opportunity will be lost.

We’re genuinely facing a prospect of two identical assessments having different RVs because one sought a reduction due to Covid and the other didn’t. This could continue until the next revaluation on 1 April 2023 and could even then still have an impact due to the way that transitional relief works. Please get in touch with me if you would like to know more about this.

Meanwhile, the latitude provided to local authorities in the administration of the 2021/22 Expanded Retail Discount relief is already starting to cause issues. The 100% uncapped relief for the first three months of the new rate year is pretty straightforward but what happens after that? Businesses forced to close can receive a further 66% relief up to a maximum cap of £2m but those not forced to close have a cap of £105,000 per business.

How each local authority is meant to determine who closed and who didn’t is anybody’s guess. As is how to determine if a business has already received their £105,000 capped amount. It’s an impossible task without interaction with the ratepayer and as such the default position of many councils seems to have been not to automatically issue any relief and force occupiers into an application and declaration. Cue an avalanche of applications, quickly followed by a backlog. Actually speaking to the business rates department of a local authority has been almost impossible for almost a year and its unlikely to improve any time soon as a consequence of this latest administrative burden.

If anyone needs any assistance on any of the above then please do get in touch.