GOVERNMENT’S TECHNICAL REVIEW OF BUSINESS RATES PROCESS COULD LEAD TO RED TAPE HEADACHE FOR GARDEN CENTRE AND FARM SHOP SECTORS

Business Rates professionals at rural business operations specialists Malcolm Scott Consultants have raised concerns about the pressure ratepayers are set to be subjected to further to a fundamental review of the system by the Government.

Whilst the business welcomes plans for a three-year revaluation cycle from April 2023, it fears that potential appeals will fall by the wayside, and that the additional administration the move will require will prove too arduous for garden centres and farm shops, resulting in financial penalties being issued.

Andrew Burton, who works closely with rural businesses across the UK, said: “The Government is committed to more frequent revaluations from next year, but we are concerned that the onus is set to fall on the ratepayer as opposed to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

“Effectively, the plan is to move to a ‘self assessment’ model, which will see businesses submit annual statements for every property they use, providing information on size, rents, leases, landlord arrangements and trading details, regardless of whether such details have changed since the previous update. What is more, those businesses with multiple properties will have to break down this information for every building; a time-consuming undertaking that is going to create a huge amount of red tape and stress for those tasked with overseeing the collation of information.

“A key point of concern for us is that businesses who currently do not pay business rates will also be obligated to submit this information – something which they may not realise they’re required to do, and which will almost certainly prove a pointless exercise with their circumstances remaining unchanged,” he said.

Andrew said that the new model could have a detrimental impact on garden centres and retailers, both in terms of appeals failing to be processed due to the tighter timescales between revaluations, and financial penalties being imposed for incomplete or incorrect information being returned within the specified deadlines.

Garden centres and farm shops have less than a year to understand the additional red tape they will need to navigate as part of their operations

“As it stands, April 2023 will see the new model implemented on a ‘soft launch’ basis, meaning that businesses have three years to find their feet in complying with the new requirements without fearing fines and penalties before the 2026 Rating List begins. But with many businesses focused on day-to-day operations and supply chains, and with so many grey areas surrounding the new requirements, our concerns revolve around the additional bureaucracy they will have to address.

“Working in collaboration with Rating experts at our sister company Harris Lamb, we anticipate that previous priorities such as overseeing the Check Challenge Appeal process will instead make way for retained support in collating and submitting information on clients’ behalf as they take steps to comply with the new requirements while avoiding lengthy administration duties.

For further information and support, contact andrewb@malcomscott.co.uk.