Apart from the properties that are exempt from business rates, each non-domestic property has a rateable value, which is set by the Valuation Office Agency.

The Valuation Office (which is part of the Inland Revenue) draws up and maintains a full list of rateable values, which are available to view on the Valuation Office website.

The rateable value broadly represents the yearly rent the property could have been let for on the open market on a particular date. The rateable value of your property will be shown on your bill.

The Valuation Office provides summary valuations. These summary valuations give details of the areas or 'zones' of a property and the value attributed to these areas. The summary valuations can be useful to businesses who want to double check what has been included within their premises assessment and to double check the measurement of area used by the Valuation Office.

Some specialist valuations do not have published summary valuations. If you can't find your summary valuation, need more information or want to appeal against a rateable value please contact the Valuation Office by calling 03000 501501 quoting your property reference number (also known to the valuation office as the 'BA reference').

How to check and challenge your rateable value

You can estimate your business rates on the government website.

There is a guide to the business rates appeal process on the Valuation Office website.

The effect of successful appeals against values shown in the ratings list will normally be backdated to the beginning of the financial year in which they are made, although there are exceptions to this.

Rating advisors

Ratepayers do not have to be represented in discussions about their rateable value or their rates bill. Appeals against rateable values can be made free of charge.

However, ratepayers who do wish to be represented should be aware that members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation (IRRV) are qualified and are regulated by rules of professional conduct designed to protect the public.

Before you employ a rating advisor, you should check that they have the necessary knowledge and expertise, as well as appropriate indemnity insurance. Take great care and if necessary seek further advice before entering into any contract.

Using rating agents - important advice for ratepayers

Some ratepayers choose to employ rating agents to advise them on valuation processes and represent their interests. Traditionally agents work has focused on the appeals process, but they are now offering services to help ratepayers understand their summary valuations and apply for small business rate relief. Summary valuations can be explained by the Valuation Office, free of charge, over the telephone on 03000 501501. Similarly small business rate relief can be claimed, free of charge, by contacting your local council's business rates office.

While most of the agents are entirely reputable, the Valuation Office Agency is aware that some unscrupulous agents are operating the the South West and are targeting ratepayers with hard sell tactics, inaccurate information and promises of disproportionate savings.

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