Business rates relief ‘should be automatic’By Lucy Allen
November 03, 2008
Small businesses in Bracknell could be losing out on thousands of pounds each year by not applying for rate relief, it has been revealed.
Figures for the borough show that out of 1,130 businesses whose premises are eligible for relief on their business rates, only 443 are receiving it.
Small businesses are entitled to up to 50 per cent off their rates if their property has a rateable value of less than £5,000.
They are also entitled to smaller discounts if their property has a rateable value of less than £15,000.
Above that, businesses must pay the rate in full.
The scheme means the smallest businesses could save as much as £3,500 a year.
But the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which is running the Keep Trade Local campaign supported by The Standard and its sister papers, believes many business people are just not aware they can apply for the discounts.
It wants the relief to be automatically applied to small businesses, rather than them having to apply for the relief after they receive their bill.
And this month it delivered a letter to Number 10 Downing Street calling on the Prime Minister to ensure the rate relief is automatically applied to bills.
It is also urging the Prime Minister to use his existing powers in the Rating Act 2007 to reintroduce an element of rate relief of up to 50 per cent for entrepreneurs with empty commercial premises.
Robin Lawrence, FSB Thames Valley Chairman said: “We have written to the Prime Minister about two measures that we firmly believe would help small businesses to meet today’s critical economic climate.
“Business rate relief is money which small businesses are entitled to claim and presumably provision is made within the Government’s financial calculations for such claims to be made so this could provide a significant boost for small businesses without affecting the Government’s budget calculations.
“Additionally, with the dramatic downturn in the commercial property market, owners are finding having to pay rates on empty properties a hardship. A modest relief of up to 50 per cent on the rate bill for empty properties would be very helpful.
“These two changes will give a much needed boost to the economy and help businesses get back on track.”
A spokeswoman for Bracknell Forest Council said that in the last two years all small businesses had been contacted with details of how to apply for the relief, and explanatory notes were included with bills.
She said it would be difficult to automatically apply the rate as some business people owned premises in more than one area, and each council would not know of the other premises.
Money collected from business rates goes to central Government.