The latest statistics from VOA, released this week, reveal 5,650 firms across England have asked for their business rates to be checked – the first stage of the new 'check, challenge and appeal' process – between April 2017 and the end of September 2017 compared with 115,220 during the same period in 2010.
Of the challenges made this year, 2,260 remain unresolved and 400 have progressed to the second stage of making an actual formal challenge.
The VOA's 'check, challenge and appeal' website has been heavily criticised in the past and described as "unfit for purpose", which leaves "business in limbo".
There had been "expectations for a deluge of appeals, given that 500,000 businesses saw their bills rise and 17,500 appeals were lodged a month after the last revaluation seven years ago", according to the company.
The ratings advisory company also warned that “genuine concerns” remain over the new regulations and changes to the appeals process.
Altus Group president of UK business rates Alex Probyn said: “The reality is that, since April, there has been a big push to clear appeals going back to the 2010 ratings list in order to get rebates spanning seven years back to business. Work on the revaluation is now starting in earnest, which has allowed time for the ongoing improvements to the new system to be implemented and bed in.”
“The new regulations are here to stay and need more time to be made to work. While there remain genuine concerns in the ratings community, we believe the new regulations can be made to work through co-operation and anticipate the numbers rising dramatically in the new year as advisers assemble the evidence required.”
Last month, global property consultancy Colliers International said the Government's plan to reduce the number of VOA offices was a "shambles" that would be a "nightmare for businesses wanting to appeal their business rates".
Altus Group is undertaking due diligence on more than 63,000 properties that could be subject to appeal against the 2017 valuation.
A freedom of information request to the Office for Budget Responsibility from Altus Group revealed English councils have made provision for an average of 3.2% of business rates receipts to be returned to ratepayers following successful appeals – a total of £4.5bn during the next five years from 2017 to 2022.
In response a Valuation Office Agency spokesperson said: “The previous appeals system was broken and encouraged speculative appeals - around 70% of appeals did not result in any change in valuation.
“These statistics cover the first six months of a brand new system. It’s still early days and we continue to improve the functionality of the service.”
Mark Higgin, partner at Montagu Evans and Chair of the RICS Rating panel added:“We’ve been working closely with the VOA, to help them prioritise the development of future functionality for their check and challenge service. There is still some way to go but we’ve been pleased with developments so far. We also welcome the VOA’s engagement with customers and stakeholders and we will continue to provide our input to those conversations.”