Rates appeal system works, so leave it be, argues Faculty

10 Mar

The Faculty has mounted a robust defence of the appeals system for business rates valuation, and urged the Scottish Government to leave well alone.

The current system works "very satisfactorily", said the Faculty, but damage could be done and costs could increase if local Valuation Appeal Committees were to become part of the newly-established Scottish Tribunals.

"The Faculty strongly recommends that the existing structure of appeals...should be retained," it stated in a submission to Ministers.

The Scottish Government sought views in a Consultation on the Non-Domestic Rating Valuation Appeals System, as part of a wider review of business rates.

Currently, appeals can be to an area's Assessor or Valuation Appeal Committee (VAC). Some cases can also be referred to the Lands Tribunal for Scotland (LTS). The Lands Valuation Appeal Court (LVAC) - part of the Court of Session - is the final forum for appeal.

In a response to the consultation, the Faculty said: "The present system of appeals has evolved through experience. In the Faculty's view, it is now admirably suited to its purpose and efficient in time and cost. The discussion paper appears to perceive a problem with cases being appealed without detailed reasoning. But the system works...We are not aware of large numbers of appeals clogging up the system."

Setting out "real merits" of the system, the Faculty said that members of VACs were not remunerated and acted out of a sense of public service.

"That they do so willingly and often without even claiming the expenses which they are entitled to must be a testament to the operation of the present system...one of the great advantages of these committees is that members will generally have experience in business or the professions and can bring their varied and valuable experience to bear on appeals.

"We suggest that, like local licensing boards, the local element is of great importance and most members of the public, if they were to think about it at all, would be likely to consider that it is a very good thing that questions of value are dealt with locally under the supervision of the Lands Valuation Appeal Court.

"The Faculty strongly recommends that the existing structure of appeals being made to the Assessor in the first place, with unresolved appeals being determined by the local VAC (with the possibility of suitable appeals being decided instead by the LTS) and with one stage only of further appeal to the LVAC works very satisfactorily, is ideally suited to valuation for rating appeals and should be retained.

"It is the Faculty's clear view that no changes should be implemented which add to the cost of valuation appeals...the Faculty is seriously concerned about the damage that could be done to the existing appeal system if local VACs are assumed into a first-tier tribunal without, first, giving careful attention to the question of whether they should be so assumed and what benefits and disadvantages, including an inevitable increase in costs, would follow...the Faculty does not believe that valuation appeals would be dealt with more cheaply if the system were to be transferred into the Scottish Tribunals."

The full paper can be seen at www.downloads/news/responses/20150310_valuation.pdf