The article in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus which expresses Council concern at ‘legal but unethical’ techniques for avoiding payment of business rates highlights the widespread criticism that has been made about this tax, especially with regard to the retail sector.
No doubt this is one of the reasons that the Chancellor had to bow to that criticism and introduce discounts for retail shop occupiers in the Autumn 2018 Budget statement.
The Council are in an invidious position with all of this because, contrary to what many think, even in business circles, they do not actually set the business rates. The rateable value is determined by the Valuation Office Agency and the Council merely act as a collection agency.
Unfortunately, dealing with the Valuation Office is now a time consuming and frustrating exercise as any appeals (or Check and Challenge as it is now known) have to be done online and, even when a Case Worker is eventually appointed, they do not disclose their telephone numbers. So the Organisation is becoming unaccountable and has an inbuilt resistance to reducing rateable values even when they are clearly excessive.
Is it, therefore, any wonder that businesses will adopt any legal measures at their disposal to avoid paying business rates?
We at Andrew Idle Associates were involved in a Rating Check/Challenge recently, in a case lodged due to an excessively high rating assessment which was preventing us from attracting a tenant to a large unoccupied warehouse and causing huge financial pressure on the Landlord.
After months of fighting and mounting a Complaint the rateable value was finally reduced by a whopping 27%. In the meantime, to protect the Landlord’s interests, we arranged for an arts charity to lease the space short-term pending a conventional tenant materialising. This saved the Landlord 60% of the unoccupied rates that would have been due. Had it not been for our actions, the warehouse would still be lying empty now.