An MP has held a discussion in Parliament to talk about business rates in rural areas right after issues.
Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale in addition to Darwen, believes the “seemingly new ways” the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is gathering company rates presents “a direct risk to rural communities as well as their economy”.
At the discussion last month (7 September) Mr Berry cited the case of one of his constituents, Alan Walker, who had been contacted on 19 March by the Lancashire VOA telling him they needed to determine his stables for business rates.
The stabling at Mr Walker’s home was used solely to keep his family’s horses and the organizing permission for the stables specifically precludes commercial use.
Mr Walker has released an appeal up against the VOA’s final decision but if unsuccessful could possibly be charged £3,000 a year in business rates on his stables together with his council tax.
“I was very astonished since I have lived here more than Two decades and am already having to pay high council tax for a home with three bed rooms,” he said. “The only nearby service I use is to have my personal bins emptied. My property is completely used for domestic purposes.”
Mr Walker spoke to other horse owners who had been in a comparable situation and also met with Mr Berry.
“This may impact horse owners everywhere therefore we need to fight this because it is not fair to pay council tax of £2,000 then have an additional rating of £3,000 on top which may mean paying an additional £1500 in non domestic/business rates,” he stated.
Last year similar appeals were launched and won by 2 horse owners in Devon once they showed clearly the equine facilities were inside the domestic curtilage (area immediately surrounding house for domestic use) of their properties.
In Aug 2014 Katherine Curley appealed along with won against an offer by the VOA to demand non-domestic prices of £1,800 along with an elevated council tax.
One more Devon equestrian property owner Marilyn Hutchings also won her appeal after having a year of fighting, following the tribunal agreed her photographic evidence showed the stables were in the curtilage of the backyard.
The local council had sent her a bill for four years of backdated payment of non-domestic rates following she was visited by a VOA officer.
The British Horse Society (BHS)has explained it gets a lot more complaints about business rates from riding schools and livery yards than any other issue.
“We have already been having a lobbying organization to create a guidance note with guidance on how to speak with the VOA and have rates examined,” said Sarah Phillips, of the BHS.