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The unlikely mix of bailiff fees, rate deferment and the rating of plant and machinery are amongst the issues confronting Peter Scrafton’s Valuation Faculty Board

July 2012 Insight – Faculty Board update

The Board has dealt with several diverse topics over recent weeks. It has contributed to the Institute’s response to the Ministry of Justice’s Transforming Bailiff Action consultation. Whilst some may consider this to be more of a topic for the revenues practitioners, the proposed changes could be significant for valuers, particularly those firms who manage clients’ property portfolios. The paper sets out proposals for transforming bailiff action and providing more protection against aggressive bailiffs. The aim of the proposals is to simplify and clarify the process, improve the accountability of enforcement agents, and to address unnecessary or inappropriate enforcement activity. One proposal is that if a bailiff commences action to enforce a debt, then the fee (for a debt greater than £1,000) is £230 plus 7.5% of the amount of the debt. The rationale is that the larger the debt the greater the difficulty of enforcement and hence the need for greater fees. We have significant concerns over this, especially with liability orders so easy to obtain presently through the magistrates court. There is a general concern that liability orders might more easily be issued without the ratepayer’s knowledge, with enforcement action starting in a very short timescale - we asked if the process for the challenge of a liability order is as streamlined as it could be?

There was a strong view from the Board that fee increases should only rise by the rate of inflation. Fees for non domestic rate enforcement have not changed in several years – if they were now uplifted by inflation, they would still not be in the same ballpark as the figures proposed.

The IRRV response also sought clarification regarding the number of times fees can be applied to an account, and how the legislation will deal with the possible situation where some bailiffs will still go for fees even if a liability order goes back to the local authority.

The Board has also discussed the significant problems that ratepayers have experienced in the operation of the rate deferment scheme, and sought views on how best to avoid similar problems with this year’s scheme. The concerns were noted, but ultimately it was decided that it was not the IRRV’s role to issue written guidance on this matter, but that the forthcoming IRRV’s Level 3 qualification in business rates, to be launched at Annual Conference, would provide the relevant training to address such issues in the future.

I am pleased to report that, following the success of last year’s sessions, there will be programmes aimed at both property valuers and rating valuers during the Annual Conference in Telford, with the ‘Dip Rats’ running a day meeting for their members within the conference. At the time of writing the finishing touches were being made to the schedule, but the topics and speakers list promise to provoke much stimulating debate. Sessions last year were full to overflowing - we will seek to manage the programme in a manner this year that ensures all can attend the sessions of their choice in seated comfort!

The Board has also recently established a working group that seeks to examine the grounds for changing the rating of plant and machinery (or machinery and business assets, as it is now more generally known) and to influence any changes that are deemed to be necessary. The research brief is being drawn up and research funding is being sought. The group has brought together some of the leading authorities on the subject, and is keen to work with central government. A potential loss to the rates pool is a concern for government - regulations that many would deem to be out of kilter with modern processes are a challenge to valuers and businesses alike. The ‘P&M’ issues in the UK are also being experienced to varying degrees in mainland Europe, where there is a growing will to find cross-border solutions.

Board members were grateful to Scottish Association member Joan Hewton for the drafting she undertook on the Board’s behalf regarding the IRRV’s response to consultation on proposed changes to the Valuation Appeal Committee (Procedure in Appeals under the Valuation Acts) (Scotland) Regulations 1995. We understand that the Scottish Government is due to issue formal consultation on this matter soon, and we look forward to responding further to that process.

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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