Thursday, 29 May 2014

Are you paying too much?

Companies could be paying more business rates than they need to – all for the sake of a tape measure.

Madelene Schofield-Whittingham who leads our commercial property team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said many businesses would be unaware they were actually paying too much.

“You’ll find the current rateable value figure for your premises on your annual rates statement, or you can check it on the Valuation Office’s online database. But importantly, you should look closely at the description of your premises which is also included on the database because this is where mistakes could occur.

“The website will list your floor area, what the premises are used for, and the date on which they were last valued, as each of these elements affects the rateable value and so directly impacts on the amount of business rates you pay.

“Start with the basics – are the measurements correct? Don’t just assume they’re right – measure the space for yourself and double check. And has the Valuation Office included an accurate description of what your premises are used for? Maybe they have your premises listed as a shop but you actually use the property as offices?

“Check too whether similar premises in the area may have a lower rateable value than yours. There may be a good reason for this – perhaps they have a different frontage or access, but it’s wise to make the comparison in case you’re missing an opportunity to bring your rate down.”

Madelene said companies could check the value of neighbouring buildings by putting the postcode into the database.

“You need to consider though that if you’ve made changes to your premises since the last valuation took place, the rateable value may actually increase – and if you appeal, the local council will inspect your property which could mean you end up paying an increased premium.

“If you believe you have a genuine case, you can appeal to the local authority for a reduction in the rateable value, but you’ll need to be sure of your facts first. There are specialist rating firms that can help negotiate a reduction, but that will obviously cost more money – so by checking the details carefully yourself, you could save your company vital cash.”