Colliers, which in Scotland has offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow, is warning that rate-payers will be “left on the back foot” regarding appeals and will need professional advice to navigate the process
It said the latest publication of the appeals process follows the Scottish Government issuing its amendments subsequent to the consultation on reforming the non-domestic rates system, and confirming that the legislation for these changes will be laid on October 7.
Louise Daly, head of rating at Colliers Scotland, said: “The recent amendments created a series of ‘red flags’ for us who work on rating appeals day to day in terms of complexity.
"This latest proposal cements the fact that many businesses will be unable to successfully submit an appeal without an advisor, or at the very least a detailed understanding of the current and proposed changes to our rating system. It seems the Scottish Government is intent on creating an overly complicated appeals system to the detriment of our local businesses.
“There has been absolutely no effort by the Scottish Government to date to communicate with rate-payers to let them know that these huge fundamental changes are coming in Scotland. The onus the system now places on businesses takes a huge and unnecessary leap to try to shut down a ratepayer’s right to challenge their rateable value and have the assessors fully justify it.
“The constant updates to the system are making this a nightmare for both assessors and rate-payers to manage in such a compressed timescale,” she added, while she deemed the Scottish Government’s consultation exercise a “tick box exercise”, with no key concerns having been addressed.
“Where is the fairness to the ratepayer when they have not even been made aware that these changes are afoot? For many, the first notification of this may only be when the draft Valuation Notice is issued in November, at a time when they will not have been made aware of what their significantly altered rights of appeal for the 2023 Revaluation are.”
Property firm Montagu Evans reportedly also feared business-owners would not be given enough time to appeal, while others to have recently called for Scotland to change its approach to business rates include the Scottish Retail Consortium and Scottish Chambers of Commerce.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “[We are] delivering the lowest non-domestic property rates in the UK for the fourth year in a row for over 95 per cent of non-domestic properties, and support a generous package of reliefs forecast at £801 million, including offering the UK’s most generous Small Business Bonus Scheme, which takes over 111,000 properties out of rates altogether, as of 1 June 2021.
“The independent Barclay Review of Non-Domestic Rates called for reforms to the appeals system to modernise the approach, reduce appeal volume, and ensure greater transparency and fairness.
“The Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Act 2020 provides for a two-stage appeals system and Scottish Government consulted in 2022 on draft subordinate legislation to implement this, as well as other reforms to the non-domestic rates system. A new two-stage appeals system is scheduled to be introduced on 1 January 2023.”