Read this if you are responsible for dealing with business rates.

What has happened?

It is the stealthiest of stealth taxes. But it is almost in force. Last Friday, Kris Hopkins, MP for Keighley (majority 2,940) and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, signed regulations in statutory instrument SI 2015 No. 424. The statutory instrument is laid in Parliament today and comes into force on 28 March, unless voted down by a negative resolution.

Also, on Friday, Mr Hopkins condemned increases in council tax in Bradford, where his constituency is located.

However, in his ministerial role, he seems to have no such qualms, if these new regulations are anything to go by.

Background

The rating list which came into force on 1 April 2010 should have been replaced by a new rating list on 1 April 2015. However, the Government decided to put this back to 1 April 2017.

If the new list had come into being on 1 April 2015, any challenges to the 2010 list would have had to be made by 31 March 2015 in order for the rating list to be backdated to the full, if the challenge is successful.

Example: A property is entered in the rating list on 1 April 2010 at a rateable value of £100,000. The ratepayer says that the value should have been only a nominal £1. If the ratepayer is correct, it will only be able to recover the rates paid since 1 April 2010 if its proposal to alter the list is made by the end of this month.

When the 2010 list was extended to 2017, the challenge deadline ought to have been put back to 2017.

These regulations

But it was not. That is the effect of SI 2015 No 424.

But it is worse than that.

Example: A property does not appear in the rating list until the Valuation Officer alters the list on 19 March 2015 with effect from 1 April 2010. The ratepayer has only until 31 March 2015 to make a formal challenge if it is to cancel the rates retrospectively claimed from 1 April 2010. That is next to no time for the ratepayer to preserve its rights to get its money back from 1 April 2010.

These regulations are good for revenue collection by Government from ratepayers who have been assessed for excessive rates but who miss the backdating deadline. They are bad for fairness in that ratepayers will lose the full benefits of a successful challenge to an assessment if they miss the 31 March 2015 time limit.

To do

The lesson for ratepayers is, if you have a grievance over a rateable value, contact your rating surveyor today.

Source: The Non-Domestic Rating (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2015; SI 2015 No. 424