PRACTICE – Landmark victory over tax rate

A semi-retired sole practitioner has won a landmark case against a Lands Tribunal ruling that he should pay business rates, and has warned others about incorrect charges.

Ian Fotheringham, an accountant from Camberley, Surrey, contested a district valuer’s recommendation that he pay business rates on two rooms in his home, and claimed that both were used for general family purposes.

He said: ‘The whole thing was a farce and no-one was prepared to listen to me when I argued that the rooms did not constitute offices. I am more or less retired and this experience has left me very angry.’

Fotheringham, aged 70, was threatened with prison when he refused to pay, but after five years, the charge was finally quashed when a new district valuer changed the recommendations.

Small Practitioner’s Association chairman Peter Mitchell said this case was highly unusual and should never have reached court.

He said: ‘I have never heard of a case like this where someone has had to pay business rates and I think it might be the first of its kind.’

But Fotheringham said he had received calls from grateful individuals who have cited his example to avoid paying the rates.

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