Small firms still wait for business rate relief

Financial aid pledged to help thousands of small businesses facing higher rates this year has been delayed.Philip Hammond, the chancellor, announced in the March budget measures worth £435 million to ease the burden of business rate rises in England. He promised to cap the amount by which smaller businesses paid higher rates at £50 extra a month and set out plans for a £300 million fund for local authorities to provide “discretionary relief”.Yesterday reports emerged that many local authorities had yet to pass on relief to small businesses, with councils complaining that they were awaiting guidance from the Department for Communities and Local Government, according to the BBC.The Booksellers Association called for the delay to be “sorted urgently” and demanded a full review of the rates system. Mark Rigby, chief executive of CVS, the rates specialist, told the BBC: “A commonsense approach here is needed. The money to help those most in need is coming from the government and there is no reason why revised tax demands shouldn’t have been sent out by local councils by now.“These delays are simply causing panic, confusion and alarm for small firms.”

The first revaluation of business rates, a tax levied on the rental value of most non-domestic properties, in seven years came into effect in England and Wales on April 1. In many regions it resulted in rates being decreased or kept at the same level. In London and the southeast, however, there was an overall rise and some businesses complained that their rates would rise by many multiples.A government spokeswoman said that local authorities had to finalise their schemes and then work with business.