HM Treasury and Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have published a joint discussion paper seeking views from stakeholders of changes that should be made to the administration of business rates following the 2017 Revaluation.

The Business Rates Administration Review was announced by the Chancellor in the 2013 Autumn Statement and the terms of reference of the review were published earlier this year. This discussion paper sets out a series of more than twenty detailed questions on which the two departments seek views.

The discussion paper seeks views on a series of questions set out under five main headings:

  • how property is valued;
  • how often property is valued;
  • how rates bills are set;
  • how business rates are collected (including backdating); and
  • how information about ratepayers and business rates is used.

The questions about how property is valued set out possible alternatives to the current system of an individual valuation for each property. The questions on how often property is valued canvass views on annual, two yearly, or three yearly revaluations instead of normal five-year revaluation cycle. There is a series of questions is focusing on how rates bills are set. These look at the application of rates reliefs and how clearly these are explained to ratepayers and set out on rate bills. The terms of reference for the review make it clear that it will not look at what reliefs are granted or the amount of those reliefs; it is simply interested in how clearly these are explained and understood.

The questions relating to how business rates are collected look principally at the billing process, and at how demands are calculated and served. This is a welcome area of review as there is considerable scope for improvement. There are examples of very good and clearly laid out rate bills issued by some authorities, yet others fail to comply even with the minimum information required by law.  The final set of questions relates to how information about ratepayers and business rates is used and concentrates particularly on information provided to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) by ratepayers and information provided by the VOA on its website.