Business rate ‘error costing firms millions’, St Ives firm believes

THE owners of a St Ives health club claim a long-standing error on a Government website may be costing British companies millions of pounds a year in business rates.

Richard and Jane Waters, who run Time for Health in Station Road say the chief executive of the Valuation Office Agency has admitted to them that theirs was the only business to have complained of what they say is a “several-year-old malfunction in the VOA website”.

Mr Waters told The Hunts Post: “We found out that the website malfunction means that they way the VOA website tells a business its rates are calculated and the way the VOA actually calculates that rate may be totally different, and the website does not warn businesses of this fact.

“It’s like the Inland Revenue, having informed you of your tax code and how it is used to calculate your tax, then used a totally different calculation procedure to assess your tax without informing you.”

He said the website claimed Time for Health’s premises were being compared with similar businesses in Cambridge to assess a notional rent, when in fact they were being compared with other businesses in Station Road, St Ives.

Time for Health has been disputing its rateable value assessments since 2000.

Mr Waters added: “Time for Health claims this error in the VOA website is misleading many businesses, and the VOA is not assessing business rates in a clear and transparent manner. Many businesses may have been disadvantages in understanding and arguing against the business rate set by the VOA.”

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He said Jonathan Djanogly, MP for Huntingdon, had written to Treasury Minister David Gauke on the matter.

A spokesman for HM Revenue and Customs said: “The Valuation Office Agency updated the rateable values of all business and non-domestic property in England and Wales on April 1, 2010. Rateable value represents the annual rental value of a property at a set date, April 1, 2008, which maintains fairness in the rating system.

“Business properties on the same street or close by may be valued differently if the type of property or nature of occupation differs, as this often affects the annual rental value. The VOA website gives examples of valuation methods for the majority of ratepayers and cannot cover every set of circumstances.

“Whichever method is used, the resulting valuation will reflect the rental value of the property.”