03/07/2006

Government offer advice on rates bill

Over the next seven weeks householders across the province will receive a Valuation Notification Letter advising of their new Capital Value assessments, which will be the basis of their rates bill for 2007.

These letters will provide important information on the new Capital Valuation system, and an individual assessment of each house based on the open market value at January 1 2005, subject to a number of assumptions.

Making the announcement of the phased roll out of the 700,000 notifications, Finance Minister, David Hanson, described the new system as both ‘fair and transparent.’

He said: “Government is taking forward work begun in 2001 by the Assembly, which recognised the outdated and unsuitable nature of the old rating system. Until now, domestic rates bills have been calculated using the old Net Annual Valuation (NAV) system, which assessed the value of property according to what it might fetch on the rental market in the early 1970s."

The last domestic rates revaluation exercise was conducted approximately 30-year-ago, and due to changes in the economy over this period, it is understood that some households are paying more than they should, relative to other ratepayers in similar properties.

The Minister continued: “Capital valuation, which is based on the market value of a house – something everyone recognises – is modern, easy to understand, and spreads the rate burden in a fairer, more progressive manner.

“The assessments, carried out by the Valuation & Lands Agency (VLA) as part of a huge province-wide revaluation exercise, have been compiled using the comprehensive database and sales information which VLA holds, using the latest technology, combined with local knowledge and expertise."

Mr Hanson added that these are based on valuations as at January 1 2005, more than two years before the new system comes into effect, with the result that the high average price inflation of 25% since that date will not be reflected in the values.

He added that after the Valuation Notifications have been received, rate payers can use the period until the end of March 2007 to seek clarification on their assessments, advise of any incorrect data and if necessary ask to have the assessment reviewed, with a variety of channels being made available for the public, including a free phone helpline.

The Finance Minister said: "My intention is that ratepayers have every opportunity to ensure that their assessment is accurate before rate bills issue in April 2007. At that point the formal appeals process will be available.

“In broad terms approximately 55% of home-owners will see either no change, or a decrease in their share of the rates burden. The remaining 45% will see an increase."

Mr Hanson said Government recognised that some home-owners might be faced with a larger bill than before.

He said: “I have been anxious to ensure that no-one in Northern Ireland suffers undue hardship as they adjust to this new rating system. That is why I am also announcing today a range of relief measures designed to reduce the impact of the new billing system by providing transitional relief through to March 31, 2010 where rate bills increase by more than 33%.

“That measure, along with others I’m announcing, should reduce significantly the likelihood of anyone getting into serious difficulty with payments.”

(EF/SP)

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