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22 July 2015, 07:14
Hertfordshire County Council is warning local businesses to be aware of unscrupulous 'rate-reduction' companies offering to help traders to reduce their business rates.
The warning comes after an increase in the number of Hertfordshire businesses making contact with the county council's Trading Standards team about this type of business practice, querying whether services are legitimate, or if they have fallen foul to a scam.
Small and medium businesses are being telephoned and visited, sometimes repeatedly, by companies offering to get their business rates (rateable value) reduced. Fees can vary, but many businesses are misled in to thinking that fees are refundable if the rate appeal is not successful, or that fees are only payable on upon a reduction being secured.
Richard Thake, Cabinet Member for Community Safety at Hertfordshire County Council, said: "There are legitimate companies who do offer such services, but businesses need to be wary of unscrupulous companies that misrepresent the actual rate of savings on offer. Contracting with these companies often results in large fees for claims that they can get the rates reduced, however, in reality the fees are higher than the actual reduction, and often with no guarantee of success."
If a business thinks that its rates are unfair they can appeal against their business rates themselves; all they need to do is contact the local Valuation Office Agency (VOA). For further advice and information on the VOA, please follow this link on the Gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/business-rate-appeals or contact the VOA direct on 03000 501 501.
The county council's advice to all businesses is to be cautious of any cold call offering this type of service and not to sign with any company before checking their legitimacy. They should be registered with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation (IRRV) or the Rating Surveyors Association. You can call the RICS enquiry line for advice. The first 30 minutes are free on 0870 333 1600.