Danny McCance 19 Jun 2018 05:12pm

SMEs want government to simplify business rates

More than two-thirds (71%) of SMEs in the UK would like business rates to be simpler and more flexible

Across the UK, 49% of SMEs believe the government is not doing enough to assist businesses with business rate relief, compared to 36% that said it was, research from Close Brothers Asset Finance revealed.

However, this spiked in some areas of the UK, with 58% of those in Wales and 69% in Northern Ireland thinking the government was not doing enough.

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

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

More than half (56%) of UK SMEs have seen rates rise over the past two years, with London, Scotland, South West England and Yorkshire seeing rises above the UK average.

However, 44% of businesses felt they were getting value for money compared with 39% that didn’t.

Davies said, “Our study has found that it’s a nuanced picture out there and what I mean by that is that the call for clarity is not driven by cost concerns.”

A spokesperson for the Close Brothers said that research did not suggest small businesses feared that they would be at risk shutting down due to business rate costs, with roughly half (51%) saying that they were just right.

In March, the UK saw its first rise in confidence among its SMEs since 2016.

At the time Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation for Small Businesses, said it was good to see chancellor Philip Hammond respond to some of its campaigns, which included reforms to the “regressive business rates system”.

This will include bring the next business rates revaluation forward from 2022 to 2021.