Imperial War Museum fails in appeal against business rates hike of £28,000

The Valuation Office Agency adjusted the rateable value of the museum's Saffron Walden site in Essex, which will now pay more than £28,000 a year more on average

IWM's Duxford premises: sister site at Saffron Walden re-rated
IWM's Duxford premises: sister site at Saffron Walden re-rated

The Imperial War Museum has lost its appeal against an increase of more than £28,000 a year in business rates on an archive building.

In 2010, the Valuation Office Agency, an executive agency of HM Revenue & Customs, judged the IWM’s Saffron Walden site in Essex, which houses an extensive film archive, to have a rateable value of £27,000.

In 2013, the VOA changed its methodology for calculating the business rates owed from a rental basis to a contractors basis, meaning the rateable value increased to £325,000, according to a spokesman for the business rates specialists CVS, which worked with the IWM in an attempt to reduce its business rates bill.

The increase means that once the uniform business rate and the 80 per cent charitable relief is applied, the IWM would be paying on average more than £28,000 a year more than in 2010, when £2,235.60 was paid. The rates can fluctuate from year to year.

The IWM lodged an appeal in November 2015, but the new valuation was upheld by the Valuation Tribunal last month.

An appeal to the president of the Valuation Tribunal is being considered, an IWM spokeswoman said. She said the charity asked CVS to represent it at an appeal hearing that considered the new rateable value of the property.

"This was on a no-win, no-fee basis," she said. "CVS has been very successful in other appeals across the IWM estate in the past."

CVS secured reduced business rates for the museum’s other sites, such as HMS Belfast, and museums in London and Manchester. It conducted due diligence on the Saffron Walden site in 2005, when the rateable value was £22,750, and in 2010, a CVS spokesman said.

The IWM spokeswoman said: "As a charity, IWM receives 80 per cent charitable relief on business rates – so the increase as a consequence of the unsuccessful appeal will be 20 per cent of the standard business rate, or £28,000 per annum. IWM is currently considering whether to re-appeal the recent hearing decision."

The CVS spokesman said: "This case is a classic example of the business rates system failing the ratepayer and defying common sense. We are disappointed that the Valuation Office chose to change the methodology for assessing the film archive after 13 years – this is what lies behind this unreasonable hike in rateable value.

"We are continuing to work with IWM to take further steps to challenge at a higher level the Valuation Tribunal’s decision not to support our appeal. We have a long-standing, successful relationship with IWM that has delivered hundreds of thousands of pounds in business rates savings to date on properties including the warship HMS Belfast and Imperial War Museums in London and Manchester."

A spokesman for the Valuation Office Agency said it did not comment on individual cases.

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