Belfast Telegraph

Sue Gray: It's about fairness, not raising more revenue

Department of Finance permanent secretary Sue Gray
Department of Finance permanent secretary Sue Gray

By Sue Gray

Since 2018, Land & Property Services has been working with the business community to gather rental evidence and other information to help assess new values on 74,000 non-domestic properties in Northern Ireland.

Reval2020 will result in a new non-domestic valuation list coming into effect in April.

The last revaluation of business properties was in 2015 and was based on 2013 rental values. A lot has changed since then.

Business ratepayers have been calling for more frequent revaluations. Northern Ireland is now in a five-year revaluation cycle for the first time, and going forward we will be making revaluations even more frequent, as is the practice in other parts of the UK.

Reval2020 is about restoring fairness in the rating system by redistributing basically the same rating burden using more up-to-date values. A revaluation is not about collecting more money from businesses, but it is about ensuring everyone pays their fair share.

I appreciate and accept that rates are a major expense for businesses large and small. However, they are also an essential source of funding for public services. Each year business and household rates generate over £1.3bn, which helps fund essential public services such as our education, health and infrastructure as well as the wide range of functions undertaken by district councils.

Reval2020 is about bringing rateable values into line with up to date property values. The new rateable values will better reflect how property values have changed.

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This is only one aspect of the rating process. The multipliers (known as rate poundages) used to calculate business rates both at regional and district council level, are also adjusted proportionately after a revaluation to take account of the overall change of value.

For our part in central government, I will be seeking to ensure that the regional business rate poundage that we set is lowered to reflect the overall growth in the valuation list. I will also be encouraging councils to do similar in respect of district rate poundages reflecting the overall objective that revaluation is not about raising more revenue.

If rate poundages are adjusted downwards by both government and councils (before any necessary cost of inflation) this would mean up to 59% of business ratepayers would either see a reduction, or little or no change.

If you're a business ratepayer, what does Reval2020 mean for you? Now is your opportunity to view the new draft valuation of your property ahead of rate bills issuing in April. In many cases you will also be able to view a breakdown of how your valuation has been calculated, as well as seeing the same information for similar properties to yours in your own locality and indeed for similar properties across Northern Ireland.

This approach makes the rating system more transparent, which is absolutely the right thing to do.

Sue Gray is permanent secretary at the Department of Finance

Belfast Telegraph