The UK arm of French logistics operator Gefco received some good news this week related to the long-running dispute it has had with the UK’s Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
Gefco UK, which uses land at Sheerness Docks on the south-east coast for vehicle storage, was hit with a bill for £3m by the VOA, one third of the total sum levelled at the port, when the office announced the it would be seeking backdated sums in 2008. Now, however, distribution and industrial property specialist sbh has concluded an agreement with the VOA that will save Gefco UK more than £2m in rates over the next five years.
The charges stem from a decision by the VOA to impose additional business rates on port companies. They attracted controversy because the assessments preceding their introduction, which started in 2005, had failed to properly calculate properties or inform those affected. This resulted in surprise backdated sums as the VOA’s main body, HM Revenue & Customs, attempts to retrieve a sum estimated to be between £175- £200m from an estimated 700 companies.
Gefco received an additional rates bill of £2.8m for the period between April 2005 and October 2008. According to sbh it lodged an initial appeal against the charge and achieved a final settlement that reduced the backdated rates liability to £2.2m instead of at total £3.3m.
It then followed this with a further appeal against the assessment for 2010-2015 of £2.19m and reduced it by 32% to £1.48m, saving around £1.19m in rates due for the period.
Last November Gefco invited UK parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department of Communities and Local Government, Bob Neill, to its facility at Sheerness where he heard from a number of companies operating at the port and updated them on the progress the then new Coalition government was making on the issue.
Neill said then that the government was going forward with the submission of primary legislation to remove the ruling and following a number of high-profile cases the government has finally announced it will now include provisions to cancel the rates in the De-centralisation and Localism Bill.