As many small businesses across the UK continue to struggle to appeal against big rises in their business rates, the Federation of Small Businesses has described the new system as a "total shambles".
Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: "The Government's new business rates appeal system has proven to be a total shambles. Ministers promised that the check, challenge, appeal platform would simplify the process of establishing fair business rates bills following April's delayed revaluation. In fact, the opposite is true."
His comments come in response to the appointment of Melissa Tatton as the new chief executive of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). An executive agency of HMRC, the VOA is responsible for providing the valuations and property advice that support taxation and benefits.
Melissa Tatton said: "I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to lead the Valuation Office Agency as it continues to invest in and improve its services, and to be joining HMRC's Executive Committee. It's vital that VOA customers continue to have confidence in its valuations and advice."
However, Mike Cherry is calling on Tatton to address the problems with the appeals process as a priority. He said: "We urge the new head of the VOA to publish data on how many businesses have successfully lodged a check, challenge or appeal across England. Equally, we need to see the Government commit to a timeline for improvements to this excessively bureaucratic and cumbersome platform.
"It can't be right that the burden of proof falls so heavily on business owners under this new system. The requirement to produce all information at stage one puts our time-strapped entrepreneurs under huge pressure and will inevitably mean that some legitimate claims are not brought forward. Many small businesses simply don't have the time or money to bring together their case in full. Our strivers want to get on with running their firms. Instead, they're spending time protecting themselves from unfair hikes to the regressive business rates tax."
Last week, a coalition of retailers and pub owners wrote to secretary of state for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid to demand "immediate and thorough" reform of business rates.
The authors of the letter included the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA). They said: "The businesses that contribute so much economically and socially, and which have helped to regenerate high streets, are in danger of being forced out of business by a system that does not work."