by Paul Murphy
Businesses across Meath could be facing rates increases as major changes to the system are now on the cards.
Local shops, industries companies, some of whom are still struggling after years of recession, will now face an anxious wait to see whether their rates will increase, decrease or remain the same. It emerged last week that several thousand commercial and industrial properties in Meath will be revalued for the purpose of rates by the Valuation Office.
A total of 4,800 properties in the county will have a valuation fixed on them under the new system.
Meath County Council Finance Officer Fiona Lawless said that the new system of revaluation would be more equitable than before as the Valuation Office will be looking at business turnover, but also taking into account net profit from a business.
At a briefing for councillors last week she said there would be a lot of communication between the Valuation Office and the ratepayers.
The office will also brief local chambers of commerce, the hotels’ federation and other bodies as the process unfolded.
She assured ratepayers that there would be no increase in rates in the next three years. The last time rates were increased was in 2008-2009 when they went up by two per cent, she said.
The new valuations will not be published until 2019 and come into effect for rating purposes in 2020 and it will be some time before ratepayers know whether their rates will increase, decrease or remain the same.
Meath councillors were told at the briefing that the Valuation Office is carrying out the revaluation in order to bring “more equity, uniformity and transparency” into the local authority rating system. They heard that following revaluation, there will be a much closer relationship between the rental value or valuation of a property and its commercial rates liability.
Property owners will get “Revaluation Information Forms” which can be filled in online or on hard copy and the Valuation Office will then fix a valuation based on rental values in the same area at the valuation date of 15th September 2017.
People dissatisfied with valuations can appeal and then a final valuation certificate will be issued. However, it too can be appealed to the Valuation Tribunal.
Sinn Fein Cllr Caroline Lynch said that communication with councillors about the revaluation could have been better because they were in the “front line” of queries from ratepayers. “The Valuation Office should have given some advance notice to councillors”.
Fianna Fail Cllr Sean Drew made a similar point, saying “This is going to fall back on the councillors. I know I am going to be asked by people ‘am I going to have to pay more?’” and Cllr Nick Killian said the valuation process was going to require “a lot of good public relations”. “I know now that if I walk down the main street of Ratoath a couple of individuals who don’t like paying rates in any case, will be tackling me”. Sinn Fein Cllr Johnny Quirke said that a lot of businesses were already struggling and people would be worried about a new valuation.