Give small businesses a break this Easter

Posted on 9 Apr 2009 by The Manufacturer

Wales and N Ireland prepare to cash in on automatic business rate relief, while England waits.

As the UK prepares for the Easter break many struggling small business owners may be considering Northern Ireland or Wales as a destination — not for a holiday but a relief from the increasing costs of business rates.

Businesses in Wales and soon in Northern Ireland will receive automatic rate relief, whilst in England the Treasury is sitting on £400 million of rates relief that could be given back to hard pressed businesses.

The relief has been automatic in Wales since 2007. Lobbying by the Federation of Small Businesses meands that Northern Ireland’s finance and personnel minister Nigel Dodds has pledged to introduce automatic rate relief to eligible businesses in the country within the next financial year.

However, businesses in England are currently denied such a system that would help ease cash flow problems and stem the tide of around 120 business closures each day.

More than half of small businesses miss out on claiming back up to £1,200 off their business rates because they are unaware they are entitled to do so. Business rates are the third largest cost to small firms, after salaries and rent. Yet few local authorities publicise the rate relief many small firms are entitled to.

The FSB pioneered a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by Conservative MP, Peter Luff, earlier this month calling for automatic rate relief which was withdrawn following indications that the Government was considering the Bill’s proposals.

“Small businesses deserve a break this Easter and a break from this hefty tax,” says the national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, John Wright. “We are urging the Chancellor as part of our Budget submission to look at the precedents set in Northern Ireland and Wales and allow this relief to be applied automatically.

“Next month’s Budget could be make or break for small businesses. With around 120 businesses going bust a day it is crucial that immediate action is taken to sustain their cash flow. Introducing automatic rate relief will help free up vital cash and forms part of the FSB’s ongoing Keep Trade Local campaign by saving thousands of small businesses from closure.”