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News - 23 August 2008

SMEs missing out on £200 million

With the deadline for claiming Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) just days away, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) is urging business-owners hit by higher rates to apply for some of the £200 million of relief that goes unclaimed each year.

It would appear that many small businesses eligible for a rates rebate are not aware of the scheme. This may be because it has not been widely publicised by the Government.

The SBRR scheme was introduced in April 2005 to give businesses based in properties with low rateable values the opportunity to ease the burden of their rates. However, some of the FPB’s members believe that they are unfairly missing out.

Research from the Local Government Association (LGA) suggest that fewer than half of the 870,000 small businesses across England that qualify for the scheme have applied for it. The survey, which was carried out in 2006, reveals that the take-up of SBRR varies widely across the country (79% in the North East, but only 26% in the North West, for example).

The FPB is encouraging all small businesses that have properties with low rateable values to contact their local councils to ask about Small Business Rate Relief. The average processing time for applications is two weeks.

"Eligible ratepayers must apply for the relief each year," said Nick Palin, the FPB’s Finance and Administration Director. "Businesses which have not yet applied for SBRR are running out of time as the deadline for applications this year is 1 September."

He added: "The Government needs to do more to promote the scheme to help small firms, which, given the current economic climate, need support more than ever."

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