No one in the sector will be surprised to hear the business rates system described as a shambles - and most of us would agree.
So far we’ve seen much more heat than light generated in the rates debate - the government’s response has been to kick policy reviews further and further down the road. Meagre measures to give extra discounts to small businesses are welcome, but in the context of the deeper reform we need, this barely scratches the surface.
Property Week points out the huge impact of the revaluation postponement, as well as its disproportional effect on those regions and sectors that were crippled during the crash. Ratepayers are right to look to the appeals system to address this, but there are failings here, too.
The appeals system should be a constructive mode of reassessment of a property’s liabilities, but ratepayers face delays and reluctance from government to share information and be transparent with taxpayers. Admittedly, the latest government consultation papers suggest this may change and we could see more openness, but while one hand gives, the other takes away.
Hidden reforms in the Autumn Statement mean businesses now only have until 31 March to ‘backdate’ any claim to overpaid business rates back to 2010. CVS estimates this could deny some 206,000 businesses access to a huge £1.72bn in overpaid rates.
In great measure, this is because of the massive fluctuations in the market since 2008. Linking rates to CPI rather than RPI would be a good first step for reform, but a fixed multiplier - reliant on more frequent revaluations - is more difficult to achieve. We must always expect the Treasury and Department for Communities and Local Government to protect the reliable revenue stream they receive from business rates.
For now, the property industry should continue to make its voice heard in the run-up to 7 May; respond to the latest rates consultation, which closes on 28 February; and consider an appeal before 31 March - after which it will be too late.
Mark Rigby, chief executive, CVS