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Appeal proposals for business rates are a ‘barrier to justice’ for UK firms

The Government’s tweaks to business rates legislation have been criticised by rates experts and business groups, amid concerns that the changes will act as a ‘barrier to justice’.

Initially proposed in the Enterprise Bill, commentators have warned that the new business rates legislation will increase the administrative burden on small firms whilst also encouraging rogue cowboys looking to make a profit from businesses susceptible to such criminals.

They also say the legislation will act as a ‘barrier to justice’ for businesses seeking to appeal.

Three new measures are contained within the bill, which have been accused of ‘riding roughshod’ over UK businesses’ needs.

Transparency around how business rates or tax on commercial property is measured has long been called for by small firms.

Critics of the bill claim that it has failed to address this issue, alternatively permitting the Valuation Office Agency to share rate measurement information with local authorities but not with individual businesses.

Jerry Schurder, former chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said: ‘In business rates, your own liability depends not on your own property but what’s being paid by lots of other people and you have no right to obtain that information. In any other tax, the taxpayer has the relevant information to make an appeal but not on rates.’

Meanwhile John Allan, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, commented: ‘While we support moves to make it easier to navigate business rates appeals, we have concerns around the proposals in the Bill.

‘Their primary aim seems to be reducing the number of appeals by making the process more difficult, rather than by addressing the underlying issues, in particular making the appeals system and the Valuation Office Agency more transparent. ‘If increased transparency is not delivered, then confidence in the business rates system will continue to be undermined.’

The Government also seeks to discourage business rates appeals from being made by creating an upfront fee.