We have read a lot in the media and from MPs on the subject of appealing against unfair business rates but the touchy topic has now reared its head in the House of Lords.
Focusing on the much-maligned ‘Check, Challenge Appeal’(CCA) process the Earl of Lytton raised a number of valid number of points in a debate following the Budget last week.
When it comes to the newly reformed appeals process – due to be introduced as from April 1 – the Earl was scathing of its current form and progress; the Government is expected to publish regulations just before 31 March – so, cutting it pretty fine!
As a former employee of the Inland Revenue Valuation Office (now the VOA), the Earl has a professional interest in the subject.
He told the Upper House he believes business rates are, overall, an “unbalanced” tax that was exacerbated by the revaluation postponement. But the learned Lord saves his most critical comments for ‘CCA’ which he described as “tortuous”.
In his words –
“HMRC is devising a system known as “check, challenge, appeal”—CCA, if you like—which requires the most tortuous and demanding ratepayer registration that could possibly have been devised and, separately but in parallel, an equally tedious system for rating agents to register.
“The “check” aspect is still at the beta testing stage with, I understand, lots of anomalies and glitches to be sorted out, while “challenge” and “appeal” have yet to run at all. In my opinion it is clearly designed to prevent appeals generally by obstructing access to them and it comes very late in the day, with the new rating list coming into force in a couple of weeks’ time.
He went on: “For billing authorities moving to 100% business-rate retention, uncertainty and the corrosive effects of an appeals system that is not slick, quick or predictable are damaging and pose significant risks. It is not surprising that many observers are saying the business rates system is unfit for purpose.
“The continued failure by the Treasury and HMRC to tackle these issues in order to create proper accountability, transparency, simplicity and accessibility for every class of business occupier, along with the ongoing tinkering, are simply not acceptable.
“HMRC is perfectly capable of designing and managing an online system for tax, VAT and PAYE that can be operated by non-specialist individuals. By this standard, the CCA system is an aberration that will simply add to the number of unscrupulous types already milling around and trying to get instructions from business ratepayers. We can and must do better than this.”
So, strong words from a respected voice. However, it is unlikely to affect any change before April 1 and we can only work within the system we are given in the meantime. With this is mind, here is a useful “CCA – Getting Started” PDF that lays out the registration process and what the CCA could mean for you and your business.