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Councils must support firms hit by business rates hike, says FSB

As the controversial business rates revaluation comes into effect, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) warns that many firms could suffer if there are delays in helping those worst affected.   

The Government recognised in the recent Budget that the system was unfairly hitting some small businesses, with a number facing astronomical increases.  

FSB welcomed a £300m fund to help those facing the biggest hikes. We now call on councils across England to distribute that money as speedily and fairly as possible, to end the uncertainty and anguish being felt by thousands of smaller businesses. 

Gordon Millward, FSB regional chairman, said: “Today’s hike in business rates will leave many UK entrepreneurs considering the future. Despite welcome interventions from the Government at the Budget, small firms in pockets throughout the country are still vulnerable to staggering increases. This delayed revaluation comes at a time when business costs are spiralling amid unprecedented economic uncertainty. 

“The promise of a £300m relief fund for local authorities to help those hardest hit is welcome. But we urge councils to make small firms aware of their allocation and finalise the mechanism for distributing it as soon as possible. 

“What we have to remember is that bills have already landed. That being the case, any firm that pays their full business rates without realising they qualify for relief should have their overpayment returned automatically, and swiftly. 

“The £435m rates package unveiled at the budget, encompassing a £1,000 discount for small pubs and a cap on increases for those coming out of rates relief, builds on the vital decision taken last March to remove £6.7bn from the business rates system. These steps mark real progress. 

“Our research shows that over half of small businesses experiencing an increase expect profits to fall. One in five may ultimately consider closing down or selling their business as a result of their new valuation.   

“The Government today launches its new appeals service: check, challenge and appeal. Any small firm looking to challenge their valuation should consult the relevant guidance that’s freely available on our website. Equally, it’s critical that those considering use of a rating consultancy to make an appeal on their behalf only approach those who are RICS accredited. We have worked closely with RICS to ensure that its new code of practice is designed with small businesses in mind. 

“FSB appreciates the efforts made by Government to mitigate the impact of today’s revaluation. However, business rates remains an unfair, regressive tax. What we urgently need now is a full cross-party review to consider what a fair, modern business tax system looks like.”

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