Adrian Blaylock: Embracing new technology will make business rates data more accessible – Local Government Chronicle

Oh, to live in the world of Liz Truss!
Sarah Calkin, editor
12 August 2022
Businesses will benefit from the creation of a one-stop shop for all tax information, writes the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy’s benefits and revenue adviser.
Making tax digital has been a long-standing commitment and priority of the government. Ditching paper book keeping records and moving to a digital-first approach is supposed to make it easier for people and businesses to get their tax right and keep on top of their affairs.

Adrian Blaylock, benefits and revenue adviser at Cipfa
The publication of the Business Tax Road Map at the 2016 Budget paved the way for digitally linking business rates to HM Revenue and Customs records.
Most taxes are collected centrally. One tax that impacts most businesses and is not centrally managed by HMRC is business rates. In July, HMRC launched a consultation around connecting non-domestic rates billing information with wider tax records in England. This will make it easier for businesses to see all their tax liabilities in one place, online.
Currently, business rates are administered and collected by over 300 billing authorities across the country, none of which have any data sharing arrangements with HMRC. Pulling all the business rates data together into one central location at HMRC, alongside all other tax data, will create a one-stop shop for all tax information.
At the end of June 2022, there were just over 2.1 million non-domestic properties on local rating lists. For centrally available business rates data to be effective and successful, these properties will need to be connected to an existing tax record within HMRC. This is so whatever digital system or software is put in place will be able to link any relevant business rates billing data to the correct tax record.
Once this connection is in place, it then needs to be maintained. Business rates represent a daily liability. There are changes that will need to be reflected every day – whether this is a change to the person responsible for a property or a change to the level of charge on a property.
Within business rates there is the concept of joint liability. This means it is possible for multiple people to have joint liability for the business rates. In a business owned and run by two partners, which is operated from a single business premises, both partners are equally responsible for the payment of the full charge.
We need to embrace new technology sooner rather than later
This means there isn’t always a one-to-one match between a property and the tax account responsible for that property during the year. To address this, the digital system needs to be able to handle part-year liability and the potential for one property being linked to multiple tax records.
It is also important that the business is shown the correct level of liability. As a daily charge that is billed annually, liability can change throughout the year, resulting in the total amount due changing.
Ideally, the links between HMRC and billing authorities should be updated in real-time to give businesses the most accurate data as possible, although realistically this is unlikely to be in place for a significant amount of time. In the meantime, we need to embrace new technology sooner rather than later.
Cipfa is currently working with HMRC and other stakeholders to ensure the processes and systems needed are in place so the benefits of centrally accessible business rates can be realised.
Adrian Blaylock, benefits and revenue adviser, Cipfa
More from Cipfa:
Mark Williams: Councils running out of time to sort out PFI exits
Rob Whiteman: We can turn around the problems of local audit
Joanne Pitt: Council tax reform must be part of levelling up conversation
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