The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has published online at www.voa.gov.uk new rateable values for 1.75 million commercial and other non-domestic properties across England and Wales. Using the assessments, which come into effect next April, businesses can use the Government’s new rate liabilities calculator at www.mybusinessrates.gov.uk to work out an estimate of their 2005 rate bill.
However, Jerry Schurder, head of rating at property consultant Gerald Eve warns that businesses should “not assume the assessment of rateable value is accurate”, and not to expect the forecast bills for 2005 to remain constant in future years.
He believes a significant gap in the VOA’s communications plan is now apparent – up to 400,000 businesses will not receive any communication from either the VOA or from Government. Schurder comments: “The summary valuations are a large step in the right direction towards transparency but it’s hugely disappointing that they aren’t providing this information to everyone. Unless ratepayers are kept informed by their rating advisers or read about the availability of the new assessments in the press, they may remain unaware of the revaluation process and its effects until new rate bills arrive next spring.”
The Government has yet to confirm the Uniform Business Rate (UBR) for 2005 and has not yet finalised transitional arrangements for businesses facing large increases or decreases as a result of the revaluation.
Schurder says: “The rate liabilities calculator is subject to some frustrating caveats, which will cause businesses to doubt whether the information is reliable. The calculator can’t calculate accurate forecasts for businesses currently in downwards or upwards transition. Nor is it using wholly reliable figures for UBR and the 2005 transitional arrangements – because the Government’s hasn’t confirmed them.
“I suspect the Government thinks that a UBR surcharge of about 0.67p will be too small to be noticed, but I don’t believe that businesses will regard an increase of 1.6% on top of their rates bill as something they can ignore.”
Details of a new small business rates relief scheme to come into effect in April 2005 were announced earlier this year. For businesses falling just below the threshold of £10,000 rateable value, the savings are small. For a business with a rateable value of £9,500, the saving is just £3.79 per week. Where rateable values fall between £10,000 and £15,000, single property businesses must register for exemption from the surcharge designed to pay for the relief scheme.