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Disputing business rates

Our research tells us that the relentless rise of business rates continues to cripple small businesses. So, can anything be done to ease the financial burden? 

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Business Rates, or ‘Non-Domestic Rates' as they are officially called, are collected by local government on behalf of central government and then redistributed throughout local government.

The key part of the business rates is the rateable value (RV) of your commercial property. This is assessed by the valuation officers at the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). With a few specific exceptions, each non-domestic property has an RV, which is based on the market rent it would be expected to command.

A re-valuation is usually carried out every five years so that the values in the rating list can be kept up to date. The last review was in 2010, so revaluation was due in 2015, but the Government has frozen this until 2017 for England, Scotland and Wales (Northern Ireland is still on course for revaluation in 2015). You can find out more about revaluation here.

If you believe that the RV or the effective date of an alteration by the valuation officer for your property is wrong, you may be able to make a 'proposal to alter the rating list'.

This 'proposal' asks the valuation officer to change the entry in the list. If the valuation officer cannot reach agreement with you as to any change that is needed, then the matter will be treated as an appeal and referred to the Valuation Tribunal.

You may also ask for an alteration to the rating if a material change has occurred to the property, or its locality, which would affect its value, including:

  • A change to the premises such as part-demolition
  • A change in the area – such as disturbance due to nearby road works or other building operations
  • New developments which affect the property's value.

Please note that your appeal against the rateable value has to be on the grounds that the rateable value is too high for your premises. You cannot appeal on the grounds that you are having financial difficulty in paying your business rates.

Should I appeal?

Before considering an appeal, it is recommended that you log on to the Valuation Office Agency website. Here, you will be able to verify the RV of your property and your summary valuation. This is a useful exercise as you may be able to compare your RV to other local businesses.

The website provides information as to how your business rates are calculated (based on five components):

  • A valuation scale which provides a series of relativities defining the relationship between the different types of accommodation within a property
  • The property's survey data
  • A table of prices for each property - the valuation matrix
  • A table of prices for car parking - the car parking matrix
  • A table of prices for any additional items - the other additions table.

It is also worth noting that there is a risk with appealing that your rateable value could go up following appeal. So it can pay to take advice before appealing to get a realistic picture of your chances of success.

Should I use a professional to appeal on my behalf?

Clearly this has advantages and disadvantages, particularly in relation to costs and professional knowledge and representation. Bear in mind that the actual appeal is free, the only potential cost is that your rateable value could increase. 

Some businesses instruct rating agents to act for them. This can be helpful. However, if you are unsure about trusting someone who has approached you, there is helpful information provided by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, or you can call the RICS business rates helpline on 0870 333 1600.

For further advice on appealing against a rateable value, call the Forum's member helpline on 0845 130 1722. We can also help you to review your business rates through an independent partner who works on a no-win, no-fee basis.