Mark Drakeford, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government
The non-domestic rates system raises revenue which helps to fund essential local services in Wales. All the non-domestic rates revenue raised in Wales is redistributed to local government and policing bodies in Wales. It helps to pay for the services – education, social care, waste management, transport, housing, public protection, leisure and environmental amenities and more – on which we all rely. Without this £1bn annual revenue stream, these services would suffer and it is vital that everyone makes their fair contribution.
It is also vital that the system itself is fair. One of the key features of the rates system in Wales is that each ratepayer has a right to appeal their valuation if they believe it to be incorrect. It is important that ratepayers are paying the right amount of rates and, if this is not the case, that corrections are made as quickly as possible. It is also important that every ratepayer acts responsibly in using the appeals system. Speculative appeals slow down the process for genuine appeals and add to the costs of administering the system, taking resources away from other services.
There is a long-established system for handling appeals of non-domestic rates valuations in Wales. It has stood the test of time but there is room for improvement and these is a need to modernise the system to ensure that it is as efficient and effective as possible – for government and for ratepayers.
I am pleased to publish today a consultation on proposals for reforming the system for non domestic rates appeals in Wales.
The consultation sets out where there are opportunities to improve the process and ensure that it reflects changing circumstances and makes best use of current technology. It seeks views on all aspects of the appeals process and on specific aspects which we propose to reform, such as when information should be provided during the appeals process, the potential introduction of fees for unsuccessful appeals, new civil penalties for providing false information, and the requirement to make appeals in a responsible and accountable manner.
The Welsh Government is responsible for many aspects of the legislative framework for the appeals process but the process is operated by 2 bodies which are external to the Welsh Government: the Valuation Office Agency and the Valuation Tribunal for Wales. The roles and functions of these bodies in relation to appeals feature as part of this consultation. We have already begun the process of reforming the operational procedures of the VTW, having consulted on proposals in early 2017.
Our aim is to make the system more efficient and effective without putting unnecessary burden on ratepayers. The resources this frees up can then be redirected to processing genuine appeals more quickly and improving service delivery.
Today marks the start of 12 weeks of consultation with ratepayers, industry representatives, other taxpayers and local authorities. We are very keen to hear their views and to work with them constructively. This provides an opportunity to consider how we can make our non-domestic rates appeals system more robust, fit for the future and reflective of the tax-base and the nature of businesses in Wales. I look forward to receiving all contributions on this important matter.