Council Failure To Inform Firms About Rates Refunds Highlighted

Many Small Firms 'Do Not Know' About Business Rates Relief


Steven Beahan, Partner | +44 (0)114 294 7868

A new report has highlighted the failure of a significant number of local councils in the UK to educate business owners about their rights to claim rates refunds they may be entitled to via their websites.

The Small Business Rates Relief scheme allows firms to apply for 100 per cent rates refunds if their premises are worth less than £6,000 in terms of rateable value. Naturally, this means such companies will end up paying no business rates whatsoever.

In addition, firms who operate from just one property can claim for their rates to be reduced if their premises have a rateable value of between £6,000 and £12,000, but the relief will decrease by one per cent for every £60 increase in value.

However, Bankier Sloan looked at the websites of 280 local authorities in the UK, discovering that the majority do not have up-to-date information relating to the scheme available, meaning SMEs are being left in the dark about their rights.

This is despite the initiative first being introduced in 2005, with updates taking place twice during 2010 and websites being one of the most popular ways to access information in the modern world.

In the report, its author Ian B Sloan explained: "Many councils have improved their websites in the last nine months since our initial report on this subject in November 2013 and our subsequent report in March 2014.

"Many pages on this subject, however, remain poorly laid-out, giving historic and inaccurate information and as a result, discourage local companies from applying for a relief to which they are fully entitled."

It was found that 40 per cent of local council sites stated that firms did not need to apply for Small Business Rates Relief, while another 40 per cent said they did and 20 per cent made no reference to the initiative at all.

This highlights significant variation in the advice being given in relation to the scheme - something that Bankier Sloan believes needs resolving so small businesses know of and can address their rights.

Expert Opinion
Many small businesses are currently in a position where they are generally looking to take advantage of new opportunities and push their operations forward. However, in order to do this, they also need to have knowledge of all of the initiatives at their disposal which can support them.

"The Small Business Rates Relief scheme is an important initiative which this report suggests is not being communicated effectively to the SME community. It is vital that steps are taken to improve the education and information regarding this, so that more growing businesses can make use of it.

"A reduction in rates may allow SMEs to use funds earmarked for property purposes to boost other parts of their operations."
Steven Beahan, Partner