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Business rates specialist calls on Welsh government to scrap proposals

Changes to the business rates system being proposed by the Welsh Government could make it costly and more time consuming for businesses to make appeals to their tax bill.

The Welsh Government has launched a consultation and draft regulations , asking businesses for their views on changes to the business rates system, which will make it more aligned with England’s Check, Challenge, Appeal system.

But Welsh business rates specialist Helen Edwards at Gerald Eve, said the proposed changes will add an additional layer of burden on businesses.

Businesses will need to produce more evidence at an earlier stage of the process and based on similar changes made in England appeals are expected to take longer to conclude.

New systems were introduced in England in 2017, leading to a drop in appeals by 98%, with rating experts agreeing that this was a direct impact of the rule changes.

Unlike England, the Welsh Government have not at this stage proposed introducing a fee for appeal, refundable only if the appeal is successful, but otherwise the proposals look very similar to the English model.

Helen Edwards, Partner in our Cardiff office, said, “Businesses said they don’t want the English system, so, we cannot understand what the Welsh Government think has changed in the past few years since the last consultation. Don’t try and fix something that isn’t broken.

This new system will make it harder for companies to appeal their business rates bills. Businesses are already struggling with the cost of living crisis and the impact from soaring inflation.

To ask them to get to grips with new systems at a difficult time economically seems particularly miss timed from the Welsh Government.

Ministers should be doing everything they can to support businesses and make things easier, not impose new rules and hoops to jump through. They are imposing an additional burden that is unnecessary.

Reform to the appeal system  could have been an opportunity for the Welsh Government to learn from the mistakes made in England and deliver a fair and transparent process.

This is the only tax I can think of where businesses are unable to see the evidence on which it is based.”

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Helen Edwards