SMEs wish for a simpler business rates system

21st June 2018

Almost three-quarters (71%) of British small businesses desire a simpler, more flexible business rates system, according to new research.

Nationwide, 49% of small businesses (SMEs) surveyed by Close Brothers Asset Finance believed the Government could do more to help businesses claim business rate relief, compared with 36% who felt they were doing their job.

At a regional level, the business rates issue was exacerbated both in Wales and Northern Ireland, where 58% and 69% of respective small firms believe the Government is not doing enough to ease the business rates burden.

One-in-ten (9%) entrepreneurs voiced concerns that their business rates had risen “steeply” during the last 24 months. Small businesses in London, Yorkshire, the south-west of England and Scotland all reported business rate increases above the national average.

Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance, said: “Steps are being taken, as demonstrated by an initiative that’s been in place from 1st April 2017 that saw 100% relief doubled from the usual rate of 50% for properties with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

“That said, the message from SMEs is clear that more needs to be done.”

In March, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) confirmed that small business confidence was rebounding across the UK. Its Small Business Index (SBI) was up from -2.5 in Q4 2017 to +6 in Q1 2018.

At the time of the latest SBI figures, the FSB’s National Chairman, Mike Cherry, was encouraged to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, respond to some of the FSB’s national campaigns, including reforms to the “regressive business rates system”.

During Mr Hammond’s Spring Statement 2018, it was confirmed that business rate revaluations would be brought forward from 2022 to 2021. From there on, revaluations would be made every three years, as opposed to the current five-year window.

The Government hopes this will ensure rates better reflect the market rental value of commercial properties across the UK.

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