Business rates are set to rise by an average of 5.77% in April and experts warn that this rate increase coupled with the painfully slow rates appeals process is stifling the UK economy.

CVS, which advises firms on business rates appeals, argues that while the Government says it is trying to support UK businesses, imposing such a big increase in business rates when many firms are struggling to break even – let alone make a profit – is a total contradiction.

Business rates often represent the third biggest overhead after rent and wages and the increase will see a number of businesses go to the wall. Following changes made for the 2010 appeals process, the system of dealing with such appeals has become cumbersome and overly bureaucratic. As a consequence there are some 340,000 outstanding appeals. Claims and any subsequent rebates can take up to 18 months to process – which may be too late for many businesses in a challenging economy.

Rateable values, upon which business rates are based, are determined by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). Due to the way in which the VOA collects and assesses these values, they can be inaccurate as the VOA do not possess or analyse all the rental evidence correctly within the locality of the property. The VO may also fail to fully reflect the disabilities of the property in comparison to similar properties in the area – making the rates bills grossly unfair and misleading.

So what can businesses in England and Wales do to mitigate the costs? Well according to CVS, businesses must challenge the assessment of the property they occupy in order to recoup costs owed to them – money that rightfully belongs to businesses, not the Government.

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