Impact of business rates on business Contents

4The VOA

202.The VOA is an executive agency of HMRC and, as such, falls under this Committee’s remit for routine scrutiny.

203.The VOA is responsible for generating the rateable value listing that underpins the business rates system. They are responsible for maintaining and updating the rating list between revaluations to ensure the business rates charge levied on business is accurate.

Staffing at the VOA

204.In the evidence to this inquiry, we heard that VOA staff were conscientious and dedicated. The National Trust told us that it benefited “from a dedicated case holder” within the VOA who dealt with them using a “national co-ordination basis [which they saw as] invaluable.”200

205.The concerns that were raised relating to VOA staffing focussed on adequate resourcing. The British Retail Consortium,201 a retail trade association, and Revo,202 both believed the VOA were “under resourced”. The Rating Surveyors Association felt that the VOA was trying to manage a lack of staff resources by de-skilling some of its processes to enable more junior staff to carry out the work.203

206.The British Beer and Pub Association wrote to us to explain how specific skills and local knowledge were important:

The determination is by its nature a subjective one and one that requires expertise in valuing pubs specifically. However, the declining number of Valuation Officers with pub expertise means this subjective term is more likely to be misused or misunderstood leading to less robust valuation and a greater number of appeals. We would urge greater investment and training in pub-specific valuation officers–a Google search cannot replace the local knowledge and sector-specific understanding of a well-trained officer.204

207.CBRE raised concerns that the VOA had reduced its headcount too far in recent years, and that reduction was now adversely affecting operations:

The VOA has seen year on year cuts to its budget. This has led to a situation where there have had to be significant office closures and reduction in staff numbers. For a tax that generates over £30 billion plus per annum, it cannot be right that VOA is finding it more and more difficult to administer and maintain the rating list. The VOA needs to be better funded so that the new CCA system can work as intended.205

208.We raised witnesses’ concerns around VOA staffing and the perceived impact on customer service with Melissa Tatton, Chief Executive of the VOA. She told us:

I’m not complacent about customer service. We have targets that we work really hard to meet. I care about all the things that others care about, and my people are very proud of the work that they do. I’m very keen to keep a really strong service.206

209.We asked whether the VOA was being as candid as it needed to be with HM Treasury around its resourcing requirements, with particular reference to the upcoming Spending Review. The VOA confirmed that “going forwards, [it] will be making a strong case for resourcing of the agency under the spending review.”207

210.At the 2017 Autumn Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the intention to reduce the gap between revaluations from five years to three years following the next revaluation due in 2022.208 In the 2018 Spring Statement, the Chancellor announced that the next revaluation would be brought forward from 2022 to 2021.209

211.The Rating Surveyors Association were concerned that reducing the time between revaluations would increase the need for the VOA to be appropriately staffed. They told us that “in order to deliver three yearly revaluations, it is vital that the Valuation Office is properly resourced.”210

212.Reducing the gap between revaluations from five years to three years will increase the demands on the VOA. The VOA needs to ensure that it is properly staffed to deliver its specialist role. This includes sufficient resource to deliver the next valuation listing on time, to be able to respond to Checks and Challenges on the current system, and to be able to conclude appeals from the legacy systems and enhance functionality on the Check Challenge Appeal process simultaneously. The VOA must perform a detailed analysis of its staffing and skills requirement in time for the next Spending Review and share it with this Committee.

200 The National Trust (IBR0048)

201 British Retail Consortium (IBR0057)

202 Revo (IBR0096)

203 Rating Surveyors Association (IBR0047)

204 British Beer and Pub Association (IBR0028)

205 CBRE Limited (IBR0076)

208, ‘Autumn Budget 2017’, accessed 14 August 2019

209, ‘Spring statement 2018: what you need to know’, accessed 12 August 2019

210 Rating Surveyors Association (IBR0137)

Published: 31 October 2019