A business rates specialist estimates that this could deny English firms access to some £1.72bn in rebates on the basis of the 206,000 eligible properties currently “unappealed”, according to the firm’s data.
Mark Rigby, chief executive of CVS, said: “This hidden rules change is clearly a move by the Government to protect its income at the expense of the rights of English ratepayers.
With businesses still paying rates based on 2008 property values, there are huge discrepancies in the system and there’s no excuse for curtailing ratepayers’ ability to appeal.” According to Graham Dickinson, a director at Buying Support Agency, which undertakes business rates appraisals and appeals on behalf of small firms, the change has been “quietly” introduced by the Government, and many business owners have no idea that they could lose thousands of pounds if they do not act quickly.
“The Treasury doesn’t like returning a lot of money to businesses so it’s not in its best interests to highlight the change.” Chancellor George Osborne made the change in his Autumn Statement last December.
However, the tweak was not mentioned in his address and was buried the small print on page 79 of the report.
A spokesman for Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which is responsible for business rates policy, said: “At the end of each business rates revaluation cycle, there is a cut-off point to make an appeal.
Ratepayers will have had five full years in which to have lodged a backdated appeal against their 2010 rateable value.
The right to appeal is well documented with every business rates bill.” Changes to the appeal dates have been publicised by the Valuation Office Agency on their website and on the business rates bills, the DCLG claimed.
Business rates typically equate to around 45pc of annual rent payments for UK businesses and are calculated by multiplying the "rateable value" of a property by the uniform business rate, which differs depending on the size of business and its location.
“Many assessments can be challenged,” said Leigh Franklin, a chartered surveyor who assists small firms.
“Valuing property is an art, not a science, so it’s not easy for the Government to get the numbers exactly right.” The Valuation Office Agency has received 674,000 appeals over the past five years and around 30pc resulted in a change to rateable value.
Maurice O’Connor, chief operations office at IT consulting firm Centralis, recently worked with Mr Franklin to appeal the business rates charged on his West Midlands property and banked a cheque for £22,000 in rebates two weeks ago.
“I’ve appealed the rates on every property that I’ve had over the last 20 years and I’ve always won money back,” he said, estimating that he has saved around £100,000 in total to date.
“That’s a huge amount of money to a small company like us.” Centralis will now save £700 a month on its rates bill, which represents almost a third of the total. They just don’t want to give the money back.” “It’s deliberately made difficult for small business to appeal, too,” he warned. They send people from the valuation team to re-measure everything and it takes forever.