Three Premier League clubs are taking the Government to tribunal today to challenge their business rates bill.
The move piles more pressure on ministers to reform the tax system.
Aston Villa, Sunderland and Stoke City, which pay a combined annual rates bill on their stadiums of £3m a year, claim that the valuations put on each ground by the Valuation Office Agency is wildly inaccurate.
The clubs, along with lower league teams Wycombe Wanderers, Bristol City and Sheffield United, will appear at the Valuation Tribunal after a four-year battle with the agency. Business rates are paid on all commercial properties and are based on the valuation of each site from 2008.
However, some argue that during the recession struggling businesses saw their property value sink, while rates bills “remained artificially high”.
Appeals are also expected to rise as the Government has pushed back the next revaluation to 2017.
Sources close to the football clubs suggested the appeal was standard practice to maintain lower bills, however, experts suggest the fact the appeals process has gone all the way to an independent tribunal would suggest the problem is more serious for clubs and other businesses.
Paul Turner-Mitchell, a business rates expert, said: “What is clear is that attitudes to challenges need to change at the VOA from a mentality of defending their assessments to dealing with the merits of the challenge.”
He pointed out that there are now 19,695 cases waiting to be heard by the tribunals, as businesses battle over a £1.64bn bill in England – about 6 per cent of the total £27bn the Treasury expects to collect this year from business rates.
Around one in three of all business properties in England have appealed their business rates assessment, with that expected to rise to 40 per cent by next year.
The Government was forced into an embarrassing U-turn in August as it tried to tighten up the appeals process.
Mr Turner-Mitchell added: “It is frankly a national scandal that businesses are having to wait over four years for their property tax cases to be heard by independent tribunals.”
Business organisations, led by the British Retail Consortium, have argued that it is not the appeals process that needed changing, but the business rates system.
Retailers have been particularly hit hard by business rates, with many blaming the tax on the decline of the high street.
Several have also argued that the high rates bill make it impossible for competition with online rivals, which pay far lower rates for warehouses in remote areas.Reuse content