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Peter Scrafton’s Valuation Faculty Board contribute to the debate once more as consultation is the other of the day

December 2011 Insight – Faculty Board update

It is always good to receive positive feedback regarding Institute initiatives. I am particularly pleased to have received so many complimentary comments about the Valuer Day programme, run in conjunction with the RICS ‘Dip Rats’, during the September Annual Conference in Telford. The programme was widely regarded as well balanced, thought provoking and informative, and around 150 delegates contributed to the healthy debate that followed the sessions.

Two members of the Valuation Faculty Board have stepped down from their Board positions recently. They are Malcolm Buckland, Clerk to the Essex (North and South), Hertfordshire and Suffolk Valuation Tribunal, and Ian Ballance, recently retired Depute Assessor for Central Scotland Assessors. On behalf of the Board, I thank both Malcolm and Ian for their valued contributions and service to the Board over several years. I am pleased to report that Graham Ryall, having recently stood down as a member of the National Council, has been elected as a co-opted Board member, and Antonio Masella has been elected as Vice-Chairman to succeed Graham in this role.

The original thirty three questions raised in the July ‘business rates retention’ consultation paper rose to an astonishing ninety six, once the eight technical papers were released in mid-August. The full fourteen page response can be found on the IRRV website, but I will highlight some of the VFB led points, as follows. The Local Taxation and Revenues Faculty Board dealt with the majority of the questions which fell within their remit, but the VFB provided comment as they saw matters in respect of several proposals. The ability to provide comment on such technical papers from both the valuation and revenues perspectives continues to be a key strength of the Institute.

The proposal to allow online publication of supporting information normally issued with rates bills in hard copy is in our view logical, and to be supported. Multi-year billing is also proposed, although It has to be acknowledged that a significant proportion of rate demands are currently so complex in layout that recipient ratepayers have great difficulty in understanding the derivation of the bill. This matter has been raised previously in round table discussions, and the issue still remains. We therefore suggested that the logical and understandable formatting of single year rates bills needs to be successfully introduced before the complexities of including more than one year on a bill is considered.

It is also proposed to allow local authorities to offset liabilities before paying refunds. We suggested that that is acceptable to the ratepayer only if the proposal relates to an individual hereditament. We would not support any change which would allow the utilisation of refunds due for one property to meet liabilities on a different property.

We also highlighted that there needs to be a review of the appeals process to enable a ratepayer to challenge rates bills received. Presently, there is no formal process by which a ratepayer can appeal against a rates bill - the only way he can do so is to refuse to pay (or just to pay the amount he thinks is due) and he will then be summonsed for not paying the full amount. He then has to appear in court to seek to defend the action by showing why he is not liable for the amount demanded. Our response pointed out that many ratepayers do not want to have to go through this refusal-to-pay route, nor risk having to pay the additional court costs, and therefore pay the amount demanded, but once the bill has paid then there is no easy route to challenge the amount. We have advocated a fast track appeal process by which ratepayers can challenge their rates bill and have liability determined judicially. The Institute is open minded as to which body would determine the appeal if it were not capable of resolution between the parties.

We also suggested that change is required to the time that ratepayers are allowed to discharge any backdated liabilities. A Valuation Officer can backdate RV increases for up to nearly six years – for instance if an extension was built to a property which is not reflected in the assessment – yet when the VO alters the List, the local authority can demand that the full amount of the backdated liability is settled the following month. We suggested that in such circumstances the ratepayer should be allowed to discharge such increases over the same number of months as the liability has been backdated, so long as the effective date of that increase is in a prior rate year. We acknowledged that this could cause problems to the local authority if it has to pay the levy regardless of income, unless there is a mechanism to adjust their tariff accordingly.

We have other matters in hand, not least of all that of valuer education and new professional qualifications – but these will be the subject of a future report. You can contact me on Valuation Faculty Board matters, via

Peter Scrafton FIRRV FCIArb MRSA (Hon) Solicitor (Non-Practising) and Accredited Mediator is a legal and valuation consultant and member of the IRRV Council.

©J.P. Scrafton, 2011

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