Small firms have only a few weeks left to claim a rebate on business rates that may have been overpaid in the past.
Businesses that believe they may have been overcharged on their rates’ bills during the past five years have until 31 March to submit an appeal to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
The cut-off date marks the point at which the previous rates revaluation took place in 2005.
Should an appeal be upheld, then the business could reclaim a substantial refund.
One business group, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) estimates that some 160,000 small firms have already won backdated reductions in their rates since April 2005, when the current rateable period began.
There are two main grounds on which businesses can appeal against the rateable value of their premises.
They can demonstrate that they are paying more than neighbouring properties. Businesses can discover what neighbouring premises pay, and whether or not they have appealed against the amount, by visiting the VOA’s website at http://www.voa.gov.uk
Or firms can prove that there has been a ‘material change’ in their circumstances since 2005. This means something has altered in the immediate surroundings – such as a high proportion of empty shops – the effect of which has harmed trade. It may mean that there has been a change in the size or use of the firm’s premises itself.
Business owners can also take the opportunity to appeal against their forthcoming business rates, which will come into effect in April after rateable values were re-assessed just before the credit crunch depressed sent rents and property values.
Andrew Bacon, the FPB’s business rates adviser, said: “Following the latest rates revaluations, businesses can make one main appeal for the period April 2010 to March 2015.
“However, until 31 March they can still appeal against their old valuation if they disagree with it.
“Appeals can be lodged free of charge. Once made, there is a discussion period where the person making the appeal explains to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) what they think is wrong. If no agreement can be reached the appeal goes to tribunal, but that only happens in about one in every few hundred cases.”
Mr Bacon added: “The burden of explaining the details of what is wrong with the valuation is on the person making the appeal. It is therefore important to understand clearly how your rateable value has been calculated and why it might be wrong before making an appeal.”