Welsh Business Rates’ reform latest

By Stuart Hicks, Director

No need to stop the press, but the next non-domestic rating revaluation in Wales will now take place in 2021, bringing it into line with the next revaluation in England.

This brings the revaluation forward by a year from 2022, the aim is to ensure that rateable values reflect more up-to-date market conditions.

Like England, the Welsh Government is looking at a more root and branch reform of the system but in the meantime, this should provide some stability.

Mark Drakeford, Welsh Cabinet Secretary for finance said in a recent paper “Last year, I outlined our approach to reforming local taxes – council tax and non-domestic rates – as an integral part of the wider local government finance system. In reforming the business rates’ system, our aim is to provide greater resilience for local authorities; fairness for citizens and businesses and ensure there is sustainable funding for vital local services.”

He promises to publish another update this autumn but claims to have reached a number of short term goals already: including placing the small business rates relief scheme on a permanent footing, changing the basis for uprating the multiplier and consulting on improvements to the administration of rates.

So far, so predictable, but certainly no further ahead than their English counterparts on the reform road. Those short term goals are more like day-to-day maintenance than significant change.

The bigger question to be answered is whether there is a totally different approach to property valuation in Wales which is fairer, more transparent, but also supplies the finances needed for the country’s public services.

Local authorities have been invited to put forward their own proposals and recently it was agreed in principle for the local authorities involved the Swansea Bay city deal to retain 50% of the business rates generated by projects.

Other ideas have yet to make it off the “maybe” pile including a three yearly revaluation cycle after 2012, to mirror England, but Drakeford has promised to look at all options and share proposals as the process hopefully gathers momentum.

Wales has traditionally fallen in line with English business rate reforms, so it will be interesting to see if this time around they diverge from any English model that is adopted in the coming months – sorry, who am I kidding – I meant years!