Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

All businesses must help to tackle rates imbalance

Business rates are being revalued for the first time in a decade. And it's up to local firms to help make the system as fair as possible, says Sammy Wilson

Sammy Wilson: Revaluation will rebalance the business rates system
Sammy Wilson: Revaluation will rebalance the business rates system

The last revaluation of business properties in Northern Ireland was in 2003 and was based on 2001 rental values. Last year, following calls from the business community, the Executive gave the go-ahead for a revaluation in April 2015, based on 2013 values.

Property values have shifted considerably since 2001, so ratepayers are not paying in direct proportion to the rental value of the property which they occupy, or own.

Social, economic and environmental circumstances change over time and do not affect all property sectors, or geographical areas, in the same way.

If we continue to use rateable values based on outdated levels of rent, this undermines the value and fairness of the system.

The only way to tackle this imbalance is to carry out a revaluation. Revaluation will address this and rebalance the business rates system.

Significant preparatory work has already been undertaken by Land and Property Services (LPS) to revalue the 72,500 non-domestic properties in Northern Ireland.

We have now reached a very important stage in the process; rents and other business data from non-domestic properties must be collected and analysed to produce the new rateable assessments, based on a statutory valuation date of April 1, 2013.

I am now asking the business community to play its part by providing LPS with the market evidence needed to draw up a new valuation list.

This information is being gathered for the first time in Northern Ireland through an online form of return (FOR), which asks for rental information for all properties that are let. Even if you own your premises, you need to let LPS know.

LPS has now issued letters to businesses asking for the information to be completed, where possible, online. Hard copy forms have been issued to those who have not yet completed a form online, but I would take this opportunity to urge you to submit the information electronically – this will allow for faster data input for businesses.

For some specific property types, such as hotels, pubs, petrol filling stations and quarries, trading figures are also required – these businesses will receive a tailored return, which is available in hard copy only.

Consultation with the business community will continue through this important process and I am aware that organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, the Association of Town Centre Managers and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – to name but a few – have all added their voices to the call for local business to support this exercise.

The success of this revaluation is in the hands of you – our business people – as much as the professional valuers in LPS, who will assess the new rateable values. We all have to play our part and I hope that businesses will respond positively now to LPS's request for information.

Revaluation, by its very nature, provides the opportunity to restore the relationship between rateable values and current market values.

After the revaluation, some business rates will go down, but some will go up. Many will stay the same.

It is important that people understand that revenue raised through the rates system helps pay for essential public services such as our education, emergency services and health, as well as the wide range of functions undertaken by local government. We all have to pay our fair share if we are to benefit.

Once the non-domestic revaluation exercise has been completed, updated valuations will be applied.

These will be known in late 2014, with bills based on these new valuations being issued from April 1, 2015. More information can be found on the LPS revaluation website – www.reval2015ni.gov.uk.

The Executive has listened to the business community in agreeing to undertake the revaluation for 2015 and I would now urge business ratepayers to get involved by submitting the required information without delay.

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