In 2013 the Department of Communities and Local Government announced a consultation “Checking and Challenging Rateable Values”. The consultation was about changes to the way in which ratepayers appeal against their rateable value and proposed to make significant changes to the appeals system from 1 October 2014. The consultation closed in March 2014 and was expected to produce new appeal regulations to come into force in October.
On 31 July the Government announced that it was suspending these changes and “folding the consideration of the business rates appeals process in to the broader review of business rates administration”.
Whilst it makes sense to consider these changes as part of the wider review, it is nevertheless a surprising announcement as the consultation had closed and draft regulations had been prepared to give effect to the proposed changes.
There are probably two real reasons behind this change of heart. Firstly, the Government has set a target to dispose, by July 2015, of 95% of the business rates appeals that were outstanding at the end of September 2013, and may not have wished to introduce any changes that might interfere with meeting that target. There was probably also a fear in DCLG circles of a flood of appeals in September 2014, from people wanting to avoid having to comply with any new rules, which would have pushed up the number of appeals – always an unwelcome statistic for Ministers!