The Government’s £1.5bn business rates relief fund has yet to pay a single penny to businesses appealing their business rates payments.
As a result, over 400,000 businesses are still stuck in the appeals system as they await promised Covid-19 financial support, a situation business ratings expert Colliers calls “a disgrace”.
Between April 1 last year and September 30 this year, 446,620 businesses logged requests to check their bills with the Valuation Office Agency.
Most of the firms claimed that the Covid-19 restrictions had caused a material change of circumstances (MCC), which is normally a valid reason to request refunds.
However, in March the Government banned appeals based on Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and instead offered a £1.5bn business rates relief fund, which would “get cash to affected businesses in the most proportionate and equitable way”.
Six months on, the legislation relating to changing business rates appeals has still not passed through Parliament and become law –- and there are no signs it will be passed in the immediate future.
As a result, hundreds and thousands of businesses are still stuck in a “no man’s land” with no obvious way forward.
John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers, said, “The Chancellor was very silent on the matter of the compensation to businesses who had lodged Covid-19 MMC appeals, when he discussed business rates in the Budget recently. As far as we are aware, neither the Government nor the billing authorities have engaged with the ratings industry or set out any guidance for businesses to apply to receive the relief fund promised. We are still very much in the dark.
“The Government ripped up the rule book retrospectively and those hundreds of thousands of businesses who had gone to the trouble of registering through the tortuous CCA appeals system in good faith, have found the goal posts moved before their very eyes. It’s a disgrace.”
A spokesman for the Valuation Office Agency told The Times: “Clearance of outstanding challenge cases remains a priority for the agency. Most outstanding challenges are related to Covid-19 and are on hold pending legislation. Outside of this we are prioritising hardship cases and older non-Covid challenge cases.”