ACS has called on the Government to ensure that the business rates appeals system is simple and accessible for retailers.

It was responding to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)’s consultation on proposed changes to the business rates appeals system, which was launched in November by high streets minister Marcus Jones.

Under the proposed reforms, businesses would go through a three-stage process:

• check – ensuring the relevant facts are up to date and accurate, with any agreed errors quickly corrected;

• challenge – allowing the business to challenge the rateable value on which their business rates bill is based, giving them the opportunity to set out their grounds for challenging and to put forward supporting evidence;

• appeal – offering the opportunity to appeal to an independent valuation tribunal.

In its submission, ACS raised concerns that the proposed fees associated with an appeal could act as a barrier to small businesses appealing their valuations. As the government’s Valuation Office Agency (VOA) does not currently publish information about the rental evidence that it uses to produce its valuation schemes, retailers cannot check the accuracy of their rateable value outside of an appeals process.

ACS said increasing the transparency of the valuation process was therefore necessary in order to allow ratepayers to check how their rateable value was calculated and whether they should challenge this. This would also help the VOA in reducing the number of speculative appeals.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We welcome the Government’s intention to clarify the process for business rates appeals, but have concerns about the proposals to introduce further costs for retailers through fees and penalties for incorrect information.

“Since all evidence must be provided by the rate payer, businesses often need to hire surveyors or consultants to negotiate the business rate appeals system on behalf of them. With a complicated business rates structure, retailers cannot be expected to become experts of the system or to invest the administrative time they would need to fend for themselves.”