Daily Mail

Firms challengin­g rates hike face years of limbo

- By James Salmon Business Correspond­ent

FIRMS appealing against huge business rate rises could be in limbo for years because ministers want to axe 1,000 staff at the body handling the disputes.

Millions of firms facing tax increases of up to 3,000 per cent will be forced to pay up from today when the new rates come into force.

Although they can challenge their rates under a new appeals system, there are fears that the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) will struggle to cope because the Government plans to cut 27.7 per cent of the 3,609 staff by 2020 – almost a third, according to the national Audit Office. There is already a backlog of 250,840 complaints from the last time rates were changed in 2010.

Last night it emerged that 196,360 of these are now with the Valuation Tribunal Service (VTS), which deals with appeals that are rejected by the VOA.

Some 166,351 appeals are waiting for a hearing two years after being referred to the VTS, which released the data following a freedom of informatio­n request from the business rates and rents consultanc­y CVS.

Experts predict a flood of new appeals will come in from today.

The appeals system has been designed to put off speculativ­e complaints from third-party agencies on behalf of firms.

Ministers have insisted the system will speed up appeals. But the CVS says the VOA will be swamped with complaints.

An average of 4,500 appeals were lodged every week in the first three months after the last revaluatio­n in 2010.

CVS chief executive Mark Rigby said: ‘The Valuation Office Agency today enter a new tax regime effectivel­y with one hand tied behind their backs.

‘Businesses with appeals outstandin­g from 2010 could face at least another two years to have them resolved.

‘Those facing huge hikes in rates from the new assessment­s could face a wait of three years.’

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