Concerns over business rates rise from April

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Business owners are bracing themselves for a hefty rates increase next month.

New business rates come into effect on April 1 – as a result of the government’s first full revaluation of business properties in seven years – leaving many concerned about the higher payments they are being expected to make.

Robert Mason, of Sturmer Garden Centre, is facing a 26 per cent increase in the rateable value of his premises, meaning he will have to find thousands of pounds more each year.

“In real terms, it’s an extra £200 a month for us to find, roughly,” he said.

Of the controversial tax, he added: “It’s a fixed rate. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a good or bad trading season, you’re stuck with it.

“It takes no account of how well you’re doing. Businesses such as ours are weather dependant, so good if the weather is good and bad if the weather is bad.

“Corporate tax is a tax on your profits which seems to be a fairer way of taxing than this flat rate.

“If we’d seen a 15 per cent rise in Council Tax, people would be up in arms. It wouldn’t happen, but businesses like ours are a soft target – we don’t have that much political clout.

“Bottom line, it’s a big rise, we have to cope with it and we’re not happy about it.”

Nick Burfield, the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s policy director, said: “The CVS data suggests that the impact of the business rates re-valuation is in many cases playing out inconsistently and unfairly here in West Suffolk, as elsewhere.

“The way this re-valuation, in particular, has been handled is likely to be detrimental to the investment plans of a number of the county’s employers – and that is unhelpful at this time.”

“This picture confirms that Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is right in its belief that business rates, an upfront cost to companies, need to be fundamentally reformed.”

In the meantime, he said the chamber was lobbying the government to make three ‘long overdue changes’ to the current system.

These include bringing forward the switch from Retail Prices Index (RPI) and Consumer Price Index (CPI), currently planned for April 2020, to April 2017; removing all plant and machinery from the valuation of property for business rates purposes and dropping proposals to restrict the ability of the Valuation Tribunal for England to order changes to business rates liabilities.