Budget 2017: Chancellor eases the pain on business rates

Chancellor Philip Hammond has unveiled three measures to address those companies affected by the burden of higher business rates.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has unveiled three measures to address those companies affected by the burden of higher business rates.

No business losing small business rate relief will see their bill increase next year by more than £50 a month, 90 per cent of local pubs will have a £1,000 discount on their business rates bill, and a £300 million fund will be introduced for local councils to offer discretionary relief for hard-hit cases.

Alex Marsh, managing director of Close Brothers Retail Finance says, ‘Today’s announcement by the Chancellor that small businesses facing rate hikes will receive direct relief from the government in the form of an extra cap, as well as discretionary relief through their local authority, is a step towards supporting small retailers, many of whom have serious concerns as they struggle to factor in the rate rises.

‘With more than a quarter of all retail SMEs in the UK citing high business rates as a one of their biggest challenges in competing with larger retailers – a figure which jumps to 38 per cent among London-based retail SMEs – SMEs need to use all of the tools at their disposal to offset the cost of increases.’

On top of business rate increases, inflation is creeping back up and is adding a further challenge for retailers, Marsh adds. ‘Using customer data to increase loyalty and better tailor products and services to consumer needs has never been so critical and UK retailers must respond to this if they want to survive, let alone thrive.’

Peter Finnie, managing partner at Gill Jennings & Every, agrees that the introduction of a ’transitional cap’ on business rates for companies coming out of small business relief will benefit fast-growing businesses, and is a step in the right direction.

But they do not go far enough, he adds. ‘Stronger measures, such as the three-year business rates exemption for new business proposed by Central Working in an open letter to the government earlier this week, will be necessary to ensure that startups have the security and confidence they need to set themselves on a stable footing.

‘IP in particular – the cornerstone of value for any technology business – can take some time to assess and protect, and stability is vital.’

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