HMRC property-valuation unit invests in web-mapping tool for ‘historical aerial photographs’

Written by Sam Trendall on 19 October 2022 in News

Agency that helps set council tax signs 18-month deal with specialist data firm

Credit: Nattanan Kanchanaprat/Pixabay

The government agency responsible for valuing property for tax purposes has invested in a web-mapping service comprised of historical aerial photographs of the country.

The Valuation Office Agency recently signed an 18-month deal with Getmapping, a Hampshire-based firm that specialises in the provision of aerial photography images. The contract is valued at £23,750 and offers the VOA an optional one-year extension beyond its scheduled end date of 31 March 2024, newly published commercial information reveals.

The company will provide the government agency with a web mapping tile service: a form of open-source online map built from connected images, each of which is embedded with geographical coordinate – known as georeferencing.

In this case, the map will be created from “historical aerial photographs of Great Britain”.

The contract states that the VOA will be able “to use the service internally across all levels of the business with unlimited users… [and] can print and use the imagery”. 

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The imagery will support the VOA’s work in valuing property and helping set tax rates accordingly. The agency’s foremost role is to manage the council tax banding for about 26 million homes throughout England and Wales. It also oversees the list of business rates for 2.1 million commercial premises.

Council tax bands in England are set based on a property’s value as of 1991, while Welsh banding is based on 2003 figures.

For new or converted properties, the VOA sets the band based on information provided by the applicable local authority, according to online government guidance. The agency’s officers also reassess the banding of properties if they are subject to an appeal or official review.

Much of the of organisation’s work is done remotely, but the guidance adds: “If the VOA is unable to get enough information to band a property, they’ll arrange a visit. Usually, the VOA can get all the information they need from outside, so they won’t need to disturb you. The inspector will often take photographs to save time. Generally, only one or two external pictures are necessary – much like an estate agent would use.”

The agency also has responsibility set Local Housing Allowance rates – which are used to calculate Housing Benefit – and to determine the value of properties for the Right to Buy scheme, which allows tenants of council housing to buy their property.

The VOA is an executive agency of HM Revenue and Customs and employs about 3,600 civil servants.


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on

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