The Non-Domestic Rating (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022 No. 1198) were laid before Parliament on 21 November 2022 and will come into force on 1 April 2023. The effect of these new regulations is to set time limits for challenges (proposals) against entries in the 2017 rating lists in England under the CCA process. The regulations have the effect of amending, yet again, the 2009 regulations governing non-domestic rating appeals in England.
Under the CCA process it is essential to complete a “check” of information held by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), before making a proposal against a rating list entry. A proposal has to be made within four months of the completion of the check process, but the regulations introducing CCA set no time limit for making a check, which opened up the prospect of proposals being made against the 2017 rating lists beyond the end of the life of those lists. At the time that CCA was introduced, the Government made clear that, at some point, time limits would be introduced, and the new regulations do this.
The regulations set out that, to make a proposal against rating list entry, it will normally be necessary to have confirmed (that is to say returned to the VOA) check information, before the day on which the next rating list is compiled. As the new rating lists will be compiled on 1 April 2023, this means that, with two limited exceptions, to make a proposal against a 2017 rating this entry, it will be necessary to have returned check information to the VOA by 31 March 2023.
The two limited exceptions to this rule are, firstly, circumstances where the VOA makes an alteration to a 2017 rating list entry on or after 1 April 2023, and secondly, where there is a court or tribunal decision suggests that a rating list entry may be incorrect.
The VOA has power to continue to alter 2017 rating list assessments of their own volition until 1 April 2024, that is to say a year after the new lists come into force. Where such an alteration is made, and a ratepayer or other interested party wishes to challenge that alteration, they will need to have confirmed check information to the VOA within six months of the date of the VOA’s alteration. This means that if VOA makes an alteration to the 2017 rating list assessment on, say, 1 September 2023 (which they will still be able to do) a ratepayer or other party wishing to challenge that alteration will have to have confirmed check information to the VOA before 1 March 2024; that is to say within six months of the date of VOA’s alteration.
In the case of a challenge to be made based on a court or tribunal decision, it will be necessary for the ratepayer or other interested party seeking to make the challenge, to have confirmed check information to the VOA by 30 September 2023, that is to say within six months of the date on which the new rating lists are compiled.
The effect of these regulations is intended to mirror the time limits that existed at the end of previous rating lists but to apply those time limits in the context of the CCA process. The regulations apply only in England. In Wales and Scotland, the previously existing time limits will continue to be in place.
Whilst the new regulations seek to mirror time limits from previous rating lists, the rather different process required under CCA means that ratepayers and their advisers will have to be alert to these regulations, which may require earlier action on their part than would have been the case at the end of previous rating lists. To return check confirmation to the VOA it is necessary first to register for the CCA process, then to “claim” the property concerned on the government Gateway portal, then to request the information held by the VOA in respect of that property, and finally, to confirm or amend that information and to return the confirmation to the VOA. This is a lengthier process than the one of simply making a proposal, which would have been the case at the end of previous rating lists. It is also a process which is not entirely in the control of the ratepayer concerned; because it relies upon access to the government Gateway portal and upon the provision by the VOA of information to be checked and confirmed. This is particularly difficult in circumstances where there is no existing rating list entry (a new property) or where the existing entry does not correctly reflect the current occupation.
As we get closer to 31 March 2023, these elements of the process are likely to be increasingly testing for ratepayers, and the advice must be to start this exercise as early as possible.