The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is an executive agency of HM Revenue and Customs. The principal responsibilities of the VOA include preparing local Rating Lists (which include the values of all properties subject to business rates) and maintianing Valuation Lists for Council Tax (which include the bandings of all dwellings) in England and Wales. To carry out these and other functions the VOA has more than 60 offices throughout England and Wales. Over recent years the VOA has been subject to a stringent cost saving regime and has been asked to achieve year-on-year real terms cost savings.
The Agency has announced that the number of offices in England and Wales will reduce to 23, with the future of a further 4 offices under consideration. The number of offices in England and Wales will be reduced by more than half.
The concern for taxpayers will be the possible loss of local knowledge as local offices disappear and valuations are dealt with only from large metropolitan centres. The VOA is likely to maintain a significant body of home workers, but will these really be able to maintain a proper knowledge of all the localities the VOA has to cover?
The VOA is just embarking on a revaluation of all 1.8 million properties in England and Wales that are subject to business rates. This revaluation is to come into effect on 1 April 2017, and is being carried out at a time when the commercial property market in many parts of England and Wales is still very uncertain. Local knowledge will be important to preparing accurate valuation,s and taxpayers may be concerned to see so many local offices closing at an important time.
There is no current intention to carry out a Council Tax revaluation in either England or Wales but, if that ever were to happen, it is very difficult to see how the reduced VOA office network could carry out a task that, in terms of numbers of properties, is more than ten times the size of the business rates revaluation and even more widely spread.