A guide to the new business rates appeal process from 1 April 2017.
There is a new business rates appeal process in England from 1 April 2017 known as check, challenge, appeal. The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) deals with checks and challenges, while the independent Valuation Tribunal for England handles appeals.
Sign in or register to use the online service.
If any of the factual details about your property or land are incorrect, you (the owner, occupier or authorised agent) need to let the VOA know. Doing this through the VOA’s online service is known as a check. You can only do this if you have the right to, as the owner, occupier or their authorised agent.
You can also request a change to your valuation (which may affect your business rates bill), even if you don’t have any factual detail changes. This is called a challenge. If you do want to make a challenge, you will need to have completed a check first.
The purpose of a check is to agree on the correct property information, while a challenge is where you can discuss the valuation.
Rateable value and business rates
The VOA sets the rateable value for non-domestic property (any property or land which isn’t solely used residentially). A property may contain a number of non-domestic owners and occupiers, so rateable values are given to each separately-occupied unit of property. A list of rateable values is provided to local councils, which they use to calculate non-domestic rates (also known as business rates).
Non-domestic properties that also have a domestic part (such as a shop with the shop owner’s flat above it) are often referred to as composite properties. Composite properties are valued for both business rates and Council Tax.
The billing and collection of business rates is dealt with by local councils. If you have a problem paying your business rates bill, you should contact the relevant local authority (council). The VOA can’t advise or help with rates bills or payment queries.
You can find out how the VOA values non-domestic properties.
Using the online service
If you’re the owner, occupier or authorised agent of a property, you can sign in or register to use the online service to:
- appoint an agent (if you are the owner or occupier)
- see or request full details of your valuation
- propose changes to the property details (such as change of use, additions, mergers and splits)
- tell the VOA about external factors affecting the property (such as long-term disruptive roadworks or flooding)
- challenge the rateable value after you’ve made a check of the details
You can also request a group pre-challenge review. This allows us to look at valuation information collectively for properties that form a group or cluster, such as those in a valuation scheme.
If your valuation appears in the central rating list you won’t need to register or use the online service. There is a separate service for checking and challenging a central rating list valuation.
Registering for the service
You’ll need to register to use the service if you want to be able to see the detailed valuation of your property or challenge the rateable value. This ensures that the confidential information held by the VOA is secure and only available to people who have the right to see it.
The first thing you’ll be asked is if you want to create an individual account or an organisation account. Register as an individual if you’re a sole trader or don’t want to add anyone else to your account. Otherwise, you can register as an organisation and add others to your account later.
You’ll then need to confirm your National Insurance number, date of birth and other details that HMRC hold such as:
- UK passport
You’ll need to apply for a National Insurance number if you don’t have one before you can register for this service. If you’re not eligible for a National Insurance number or you don’t have proof of ID, you should contact the VOA on 03000 501 501 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You should not share your Government Gateway ID and password with anybody else. By sharing these details, there may be a risk to your personal, business and property details.
If you’re an agent, you must not register on behalf of your client. This may lead to prosecution under the relevant legislation, including the Computer Misuse Act 1990 or the Fraud Act 2006. Access to the service may be withdrawn in accordance with our terms and conditions.
Adding another person
You’ll need be an administrator for your organisation’s Government Gateway account to add another person. You’re an administrator if you created the Government Gateway account or if you’ve been added as an administrator to the account.
You can add another person to your account during registration or under the “My details” tab.
If you’ve asked your agent to claim properties for you, you’ll need to add them as an assistant in the same way. If you do this, you should be aware that they’ll have the same access rights as other assistants within your organisation.
If you cannot register for our digital service
You can get someone else in your organisation to register and then add you to the Government Gateway account. If you haven’t got anyone else in your organisation, you can appoint a trusted helper. A trusted helper could be a friend, family member, voluntary organisation or agent.
If you want to appoint a trusted helper to deal with the VOA on your behalf, you can complete a trusted helper form.
Claiming a property
After you’ve registered, you’ll need to claim a property before you can submit a check or challenge. You need to provide the VOA with proof of your relationship to the property (such as a copy of the business rates or utility bill) before they can send you a detailed valuation.
Once you’ve claimed your property, it may take up to 15 working days to be approved.
If you’re an agent, you can claim a property on behalf of your client if your client adds you to their Government Gateway account as an assistant. However you should use your agent account to submit checks and challenges.
Claiming a client’s property from your agent account may lead to prosecution under the relevant legislation, including the Computer Misuse Act 1990 or the Fraud Act 2006. Access to the service may be withdrawn in accordance with our terms and conditions.
If you need to, you can claim more than one property using this method for each one.
Details for some properties aren’t yet available online. You can request valuation details for these properties to be sent to you. You should receive the valuation within 20 working days, along with a form to submit a check on the property.
Once the property claim has been confirmed, you’ll be able to check the information we hold for your property.
Business rates bills
Your local authority usually send business rates bills once a year, although they may send updated bills if they have to recalculate your business rates (for example, if your rateable value changes). You can also download your bill if you pay your business rates online.
As well as proving business rates liability, rates bills include important information such as your property’s address and billing authority reference. The VOA will ask you for your rates bill so that they can identify your property and confirm you have a valid link to it.
What to do if you disagree with the VOA’s decision to decline your property claim
The VOA will send you a message if they can’t confirm your link to the property. If you disagree with their decision, you can contact them on 03000 501 501 or by emailing email@example.com.
Appointing an agent
You can use the online service to appoint an agent to act for you. To do this you’ll need your agent’s unique code, which you can only get from them. You’ll be able to choose whether you want an agent to represent you for a check, a challenge, or both.
If you’ve asked your agent to submit checks or challenges for you, you’ll need to appoint them this way even if you added them to your Government Gateway account.
Your agent will be able to view your detailed property information and submit checks and challenges on your behalf. You’ll also receive messages from the VOA if your agent does submit a check or challenge.
If you appoint an agent just for a check but want them to later submit a challenge for you, you’ll need to reappoint the agent with the correct permissions.
If you want to dis-instruct your agent, you’ll need to contact the VOA.
Agents who are members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation (IRRV) and the Rating Surveyors’ Association (RSA) should follow the mandatory code of practice.
Agents: your role
In order to act as an agent, you’ll first need to register your business. During the registration process, you’ll be able to confirm that you want to act as an agent.
You’ll be allocated a unique agent code, which you can give to your clients. They’ll need this in order to appoint you to act on their behalf. You’ll be notified and asked to approve when a client has selected you to act for them.
Please note that you won’t be able to submit a check or a challenge, or view detailed property data until you have been authorised to represent the owner or occupier.
What to do if property details are incorrect
To be sure that you’re paying the correct business rates, it’s important that the rateable value is based on the correct information about your property. If you think that any of the factual details about your property (such as number of floors, or the description) held by the VOA are wrong, you can request changes by submitting a check. You must do this using the VOA’s online service.
You should make sure to provide the correct information in your check as you can’t change it once you’ve submitted it.
If you need to report any new changes after you’ve already submitted a check, you must complete another check. The VOA will review the information in the two checks and will contact you if there are any queries.
What if all the information held by the VOA is correct?
You must still review all the information and submit a check even if you don’t have any changes to tell the VOA, but want to:
- tell the VOA about something affecting the land or property that’s not in your control (such as long-term disruptive roadworks)
- challenge the rateable value of the property
- change the address
- change the main use (description)
- change the effective date (the date when the change occurred and when any new rateable value would be effective from)
How to submit a check online
The service allows you to confirm details or tell the VOA about certain changes to your property. You’ll be asked what changes you want to tell the VOA about and you can choose from the following options:
- confirm or change the information held
- something external to the property has affected its value
- the property needs to be split from others (into two or more properties)
- the property needs to be merged with others (into one or more properties)
- the property is no longer used for business or has been demolished
- the property has been subject to a court decision
If you want to tell the VOA about more than one issue, you should select the main issue. You’ll have the chance to tell the VOA about the other changes in your supporting documents.
For example, your shop front is being affected by long-term roadworks and you’ve also added a floor to the property. You should select ‘tell the VOA about external factors affecting the property’ and you’ll be given the choice to tell the VOA about the additional floor later in the form.
If you want to add a property to the rating list, you should contact the VOA to discuss this with them.
Agents - You won’t be able to submit a check, or view detailed property data until you have been authorised to represent the owner or occupier.
Submit a check for something external to your property
The date that you submit a check relating to something external to your property (also known as a Material Change of Circumstances) can affect the outcome. If the external issue is temporary your check should be submitted whilst the issue is ongoing.
If you need to submit a check urgently for this reason and you’re waiting for your property link to be approved or you’re waiting to receive a copy of your detailed valuation and check form by email or post, you should email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for your request to be prioritised.
You should include ‘Urgent: external Material Change of Circumstances’ in the subject line and include the property address and your submission ID or reference number within the email.
Before submitting the form, you’ll be asked if you are a ‘smaller proposer’. A smaller proposer is a business that has employed fewer than 10 people on average in the last 12 months. In that same period, it must also have had a turnover or balance sheet of less than £2 million.
If you’re not a business, and if you do not run a voluntary or community body (such as a charity) you’ll always be a smaller proposer.
Supporting documents - what to include in your check submission
The VOA will ask for documents to support your changes. Evidence you provide might include photographs, plans and rent agreements. You don’t have to provide any supporting documents, but the more evidence you provide, the easier it will be to process your check.
You may also want to provide a statement with extra information or comments that you haven’t included in the form.
To send your documents or statement with your form:
- click on the “Choose a file to upload” button on the supporting documents page of the form
- select the file from your computer’s directory and select “open”
- choose an option from the “Select document type” drop-down list (for example, if you are uploading a photograph, choose “photographs”)
You must provide the correct information in your check. If you don’t, this could later lead to backdated increases to your valuation.
After you submit a check
The VOA will review the details you send them and in most cases they’ll have enough information to review your check. However, in some cases they may need to contact you. If so, they will contact the person that submitted the check. If necessary, they’ll amend the rating list and provide you with written notification of the alteration.
If you’ve submitted a check on your property and are suffering from financial hardship, you should tell the VOA. The information that you provide may allow them to prioritise your case. You can do this by emailing email@example.com or by calling 03000 501 501.
It’s important to understand that suggesting changes to the details could lead to a change in the rateable value. This could be a reduction, or an increase, or it could remain the same.
Conflicts when landlord and tenant submit a check at the same time
It is possible that two checks are submitted at the same time for the same property. In this case, the VOA will assess each submission and determine if any changes are required to the property details.
What happens if you don’t agree with the outcome of a check
Most enquiries are expected to be resolved during a check as the process is based on facts about your property.
Once a check is completed, you can challenge any valuation related to the same property within four months of the check decision, or within 16 months of your check submission if the challenge is about a change in the surrounding area. You may also make a challenge if the VOA has not made a decision on your check after 12 months. Properties may have lots of valuations from different dates due to physical facts changing over the period of the rating list.
You must have submitted a check before you can make a challenge.
How to submit a challenge
You can’t submit a valid challenge unless a check decision has been made in the last four months or the VOA response deadline has passed.
To start a challenge use the “Challenge this valuation” link (next to the outcome of a check) on the detailed valuation page. You’ll need to answer questions explaining why you’re challenging the valuation, and provide supporting evidence and a statement explaining how it relates to your challenge.
If the link does not appear and you are certain you can make a challenge, you’ll need to complete a form and return it to the VOA, along with supporting evidence and a statement. The form is available as a download through the challenge service and must be returned by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Who can make a challenge
Challenges can be made by, or on behalf of:
- a current owner or occupier of the property
- a previous owner or occupier (but only regarding a valuation from the dates of their ownership or occupation)
- an agent authorised to act on behalf of a current or previous owner or occupier
When you can’t make a challenge
You can only make a challenge on a valuation if you have completed a check. You must submit your challenge within four months of the check decision. If your challenge is about a change in the surrounding area of your property, you must have submitted a check in the last 16 months.
You can’t submit a challenge against the same valuation, for the same reason, more than once and you can’t submit a further challenge against the outcome of a previous challenge you’ve made.
Agents - you will not be able to submit a challenge, or view detailed property data unless you have been authorised to represent the owner or occupier.
When someone else submits a challenge for your property
If you pay business rates for a property and someone else submits a challenge, the VOA will automatically keep you informed of the progress of the challenge.
If you don’t pay the business rates but you’re the owner or occupier, you can request to be kept informed of the progress of the challenge. To do this, register for the online service and link to the property, then email email@example.com. The VOA will let you know what the outcome of the challenge is and what that means for your property. You’ll be able to provide us with information relating to the challenge if you want to.
Before submitting a challenge, the VOA recommends that you review your valuation and compare it to properties in your area that are of similar age, size and character. This will help you to determine if your property has been valued fairly. You should consider the similarities and differences between your property and the ones you are comparing it with. You can use the VOA’s online service to compare your property with others in the same ‘valuation scheme’.
You can find out more about valuation schemes and how the VOA values non-domestic properties.
Reasons for making a challenge (grounds)
Grounds for a challenge include:
- the valuation was wrong when the rating list was created
- there’s been a change to the property or surrounding area that should be shown in the rateable value (for example, long-running roadworks)
- a change made to the valuation by the VOA is wrong, or hasn’t been made
- the date of a change made by the VOA is wrong
- the property should be split into more than one property, or combined with others into a single property
- a property should be removed from, or added to, the rating list
- the valuation is wrong due to a legal decision on another property
- the property details are wrong or incomplete
You can’t usually challenge on the same grounds more than once. If you want to make a challenge in the future based on grounds you have previously used, you can only do so if it has a different effective date. For example, you can only submit one challenge because of roadworks that started on 1 January 2018, but can submit a new challenge for roadworks starting on a different date.
What to include in your challenge
A challenge must include:
- the name, address and contact details of the person submitting the challenge
- the specific reasons for making the challenge (known as grounds). The challenge will then always be limited to these grounds
- the revised rateable value being proposed, if challenging the rateable value
- supporting evidence
- a supporting statement
- the date (on or after 1 April 2017) that the proposed amendment should take effect
- which properties are affected
- rent details for the property, if it is rented (unless the challenge is to remove the property from the rating list or against the property details)
You must send documents, including a supporting statement, to give evidence of the changes you’re asking the VOA to make. If you don’t, the VOA will contact you to tell you your challenge is incomplete. If it’s not corrected within the time limit set out in the notification, it will be regarded as invalid and will not result in a decision. If this happens, you’ll need to make another challenge to the same valuation, and possibly another check.
Supporting documents you may wish to submit include:
- valuations of similar local properties
- legal decisions
- any other documents that support your challenge, such as photographs of the land or property and local environment
Remember that unlike a check, a challenge is against the valuation of a property. Your evidence must explain why you think your valuation is wrong and fully support your requested changes.
You must be sure to submit all your evidence together as you’ll only be able to submit further evidence at a later date in exceptional circumstances (for example, if the evidence did not exist until part-way through a challenge).
You’ll need to make sure that your supporting statement clearly shows why you are making a challenge, and that your reasons fall under one of the grounds. You’ll also need to explain how your evidence supports your challenge and why your proposed rateable value is correct.
It’s a good idea to use your supporting statement to make sure you’ve included everything in your challenge that you need to make it valid.
Sharing your challenge information with others
The VOA will share details of your challenge with others in some circumstances.
If your agent submits a challenge on your behalf, the VOA will send you:
- a copy of the challenge
- the outcome of the challenge and any supporting evidence (this will also be sent to your agent)
The VOA will send information about your challenge to the billing authority, including the:
- details which identify your property
- date that the challenge was submitted
- current rateable value
- proposed rateable value and the date that it should apply from
- outcome of the challenge and, if reasonable to do so, your supporting evidence
The VOA will also send a copy of the outcome of your challenge and supporting evidence to those who have a right to see it, including the owner or occupier.
If you submit an appeal to the Valuation Tribunal, the VOA will provide a copy of your challenge, and the VOA case based on that challenge, to the Valuation Tribunal if they request it.
The law explaining what the VOA must share is the The Non-Domestic Rating (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) (England) Regulations 2009 and The Non-Domestic Rating (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017.
Right to inspect your challenge
Under the Local Government Finance Act 1988 any person can ask to view a copy of your challenge.
If you have any questions about information being shared you should contact the VOA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
After you submit a challenge
The VOA will review your evidence and may contact you to discuss your challenge. If they agree with your case, they’ll amend the rating list and send you written notification. If they partly agree with your case, they’ll send an agreement form for you to complete, then amend the rating list after you return the form. If you and the VOA can’t agree an outcome, they’ll issue their decision explaining their view and any amendments to the rating list they intend to make.
If the VOA requires more information they will contact you. You should respond to this within 20 days, otherwise the VOA may make a decision without the additional information.
If you’ve submitted a challenge on your property and are suffering from financial hardship, you should tell the VOA. The information that you provide may allow them to prioritise your case. You can do this by emailing email@example.com or by calling 03000 501 501.
Rateable values and business rates may go up or down following a challenge, or they could remain the same. This is because the VOA may review the valuation to take account of any new information, such as a new rent.
During the challenge the VOA will review the details you send them and consider the evidence you’ve submitted in your check and challenge. If they agree your case is well-founded, they’ll amend the rating list and provide you with written notification of the alteration and your rights in respect of it.
Otherwise, they’ll share any evidence they hold and discuss your challenge with you in order to agree an outcome. If you and the VOA can’t agree they’ll issue a decision explaining their view and any amendments to the rating list they intend to make. This will be issued to the person who submitted the challenge (and the ratepayer if they aren’t the same person).
When you can’t reach an agreement with the VOA
If you don’t agree with the VOA’s decision after you’ve made a challenge, you have the right (in certain circumstances) to appeal their decision. You need to take your appeal to the Valuation Tribunal for an independent review within four months of the challenge decision.
If the VOA has not got back to you within 18 months of you submitting a challenge, you also have the right to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.
The Valuation Tribunal handles the following types of appeals against:
- the entry in the rating list – the rateable value or some other part of the entry
- a completion notice issued by the billing authority (local council) for a property. This notice shows the date the council believes the property is or will be complete, or substantially complete and from when rates should be paid
- a transitional certificate issued by the VOA because of transitional relief, a scheme that tries to reduce the effect of any large changes in rateable value between rating lists
It’s your responsibility to submit all information relevant to your case to the Valuation Tribunal, including any evidence that you want them to consider.
The VOA will provide a copy of your challenge and any other relevant documents to the Valuation Tribunal if they request it.
For more information on appeals you should contact the Valuation Tribunal.