Number of business rate appeals drops amid new system confusion
Levels of appeals to business rates have dropped sharply in the last year since the introduction of a new system, as businesses struggle to come to terms with it.
Appeals dropped by more than 99% for the period between April 1 2017 - when the new system for appealing was introduced - and the end of the year, when compared to the last change that took place in 2010.
Proposals to fine companies £500 that wrongfully appeal has meant many have just left the process alone, despite the fact they could be paying more than they need to.
The new Check, Challenge, Appeal system places the burden of proof on the company themselves and of 1,210 valuations in England that were challenged, just one made it to the appeal stage.
This has led to a number of claims from industry bodies that firms are simply not bothering with the process.
The Federation of Small Businesses has said that smaller firms are being particularly hard hit as they often lack financial reserves to cover additional outlays.
Chairman Mike Cherry has urged the government to ''get a grip'' of the system which he says places a ''huge administrative burden on small firms'', before adding that many ''simply don't have the time or money make their case''.
The Government's Valuation Office Agency, which oversees business rates, slammed the past system for encouraging speculative appeals and urged businesses to give the new system time.
A spokesman said it is still ''early days'' and that efforts are being made to improve functionality of the service.
However, for small companies that are struggling to get their finances in order and who are unable to challenge their rates, any move may come too late.
Alternatively, an independent business review might help to identify a strategy for a more financially secure future.
By Phil Smith