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Leeds Business rates Q&A with Colin Hunter from Lambert Smith Hampton

At the most recent FSB/Met Club networking event in Leeds, Colin Hunter from Lambert Smith Hampton explained how business rates work and answered members’ questions. He explained that business rates is a property tax based on occupation or right to occupy. Calculated on the rental value of the property and a nationally set multiplier, they raise £266M in revenue.

He advised that some small business may be eligible for Small Business Rates Relief. To qualify you have to have only one property and the rateable value has to be less than £15,000. Above £15,000 100 per cent is payable, £12,000 or less pays 0 percent with a sliding scale between those points.

Colin also explained the appeals process. He told us that the appeal system changed on 1 April 2017 to a three step process, Check/Challenge/Appeal. This made the process more difficult to navigate and more time consuming for ratepayers and their agents.

He answered members’ questions about when you should appeal. Colin’s advice was that you should ask yourself if you would pay a rent for your property equal to the Rateable Value. A way of easily checking this is to compare it to the rent you pay. Is it more or less than the Rateable Value?

Colin advised that appeals can be very effective at reducing rates liability for five or more years but under the new appeal system, the ratepayer has to provide all of the information first.  At the Check stage, only the facts can be checked and provision of inaccurate information can lead to a £500 fine.  So, if your property is larger than the Valuation Office Agency think you have to tell them. At the Challenge stage, the ratepayer has to provide all of their evidence, a formal valuation and all of the reasoning behind it.  Whatever is not included will not be accepted later. Crucially, Colin reminded us that appeal the Rateable Value can be increased.

Finally, Colin emphasised how critical it is that anyone considering use of a rating consultancy to make an appeal on their behalf should only approach those who are RICS accredited. FSB has worked closely with RICS to ensure that its new code of practice is designed with small businesses in mind.