The number of appeals to business rates made since a new system came in last year has crashed more than 99pc as companies struggle to navigate what experts have called an “appalling” process.
New figures released by the Government show that between April 1 2017, when the new system for appealing business rates was introduced, and December 31, just 1,210 valuations were challenged in England, a 99.3pc fall compared to the same period after the last system change in 2010.
The collapse in challenges is being seen as a direct consequence of the difficulties companies are reporting using a new “Check, Challenge, Appeal” system, which places the burden of proof on companies themselves. Just one case made it to the “appeal” stage in the period.
New regulations are also being introduced which will issue £500 fines if businesses appeal wrongly.
As a result, industry bodies said, thousands of businesses are not bothering to appeal their business rates, and could be paying far more than they should be.
Jerry Schurder, head of business rates at Gerald Eve, said: “The new rules amount to a denial of justice, condemning firms to paying more than they rightfully owe.
“The Government should be ashamed at having brought in a system appropriate for a communist state and should introduce immediate reform so that businesses are given a fair right of appeal.”
Small businesses in particular are being hit by difficulties in appealing rates decisions, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned.
Mike Cherry, the organisation’s national chairman, said the Government needed to “urgently get a grip” on the appeals system.
“Rather than simplifying the process of getting a rates bill right at the outset, the platform places a huge administrative burden on small firms, meaning many simply don’t have the time or money to make their case,” he added.
A spokesman for the Government’s Valuation Office Agency, which oversees business rates, said the previous appeals system was “broken and encouraged speculative appeals”.
“These statistics cover the first nine months of a brand new system. It’s still early days and we continue to improve the functionality of the service,” he added.