Current back-log of appeals could take over four years to process
New Government figures have revealed that some 13,110 business rates appeals have been lodged in Wales since April 1st as firms battle the effects of COVID-19. This brings the total of outstanding appeals to 17,850 – which will take 4½ years to clear at the current rate which saw just 3,990 cases resolved in 2020.
Yet the situation is set to become exponentially worse with the current rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses set to expire at the end of March. Unless the holiday is extended a wave of additional appeals will be created by the 49,910 properties in Wales in these sectors.
Wales’ 29,235 shops, 4,075 pubs and bars, and 2,726 restaurants and cafes are among those who have paid no business rates since April 2020, and therefore have had no need to make appeals. But the end of the holiday would make a new wave of appeals inevitable.
The looming appeals crisis has led to calls for Welsh Government to apply its powers as quickly as possible to both extend the business rates holiday to all businesses post 31 March 2021 and remove the upper threshold of a £500,000 rateable value, especially now that the supermarkets and other major retailers have made it clear that they won’t be taking advantage of any concessions.
Helen Edwards, senior associate and business rates expert at Gerald Eve’s Cardiff office, said:
“Thousands of Welsh businesses have been kept afloat by the unprecedented rates holiday, but are facing the abyss in the absence of any assurance that rates support will continue beyond March. Other businesses which have not benefitted from any concessions have resorted to appeals in an effort to reduce their costs and potentially face unacceptable delays to get cash that is rightfully theirs, and which could be the difference between surviving or going to the wall.
“The message is clear: the Finance Minister needs must extend the rates holiday for all non-essential retail, leisure and hospitality, and do so now, or risk watching these businesses go to the wall. If the Welsh Government wants there to be a hospitality and retail sector for people to return to when lockdown ends, an extended rates holiday is the only solution.