The Non-Domestic Rating Act 2023: What it means for Businesses
The Non-Domestic Rating Bill, which became law in October 2023, is a major reform of the business rates system in England and Wales. It aims to make the system more fair, transparent and efficient for ratepayers, but also imposes new obligations and responsibilities on them. Here are some of the key features and implications of the new legislation:
• More frequent revaluations: The bill reduces the interval between revaluations from five years to three years, starting from 2026. This means that the rateable values of properties will be updated more regularly to reflect changes in the market and economic conditions. The government hopes that this will reduce the gap between the actual and assessed value of properties, and make the system more responsive and equitable for ratepayers.
• Increased compliance: The bill introduces a new compliance framework that requires ratepayers to provide accurate and timely information to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) through an online portal. Ratepayers will have two main duties: to submit a property return every year, and to notify the VOA of any changes in their property or circumstances within 56 days. Failure to comply with these duties may result in penalties, interest charges or inaccurate valuations.
• Swifter appeals process: The bill reforms the appeals process to make it faster and simpler for ratepayers to challenge their valuations. It introduces a new check, challenge and appeal (CCA) system that replaces the current three-stage process. Ratepayers will first have to check their valuation details with the VOA and correct any errors. If they are still unhappy with their valuation, they can then challenge it by providing evidence and arguments. If the challenge is not resolved, they can finally appeal to an independent tribunal. The bill also sets out clear time limits and deadlines for each stage of the process.
The Bill is a significant change to the business rates system that will affect all ratepayers in England and Wales. It is important for businesses to understand the new rules and requirements, and to prepare for them accordingly. The bill aims to create a more modern, fair and efficient system, but also demands more cooperation and compliance from ratepayers.
The government has introduced a new framework for business rates valuation that will require ratepayers to provide more information to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and to update it regularly. The main components of the new framework are:
• Annual Confirmation Return: Ratepayers will have to submit an online form every year within 60 days after 30 April to verify that the data held by the VOA on their property is accurate and up-to-date.
• Duty to Notify: Ratepayers will have to inform the VOA of any changes in the occupancy, physical characteristics or valuation factors of their property and to supply relevant information such as rent, lease, trade and other data used for valuation purposes, within 60 days of the changes occurring.
The new framework will be implemented gradually during the 2023 rating list and will be fully operational once the government is satisfied that the online portal is user-friendly and effective. The government will also introduce severe penalties for non-compliance or provision of misleading or false information, including criminal sanctions. The new reporting obligations will apply to all ratepayers, including those who currently pay no business rates or receive partial relief due to various exemptions.
The VOA has committed to provide more transparency and disclosure of information relating to the business rates valuation of compliant ratepayers. This information will be available to ratepayers and their advisors before any appeals process on the 2026 rating list.