“For many small businesses this is one of their largest overheads. Compared with a domestic dwelling of a similar size [which uses more local services] the business rate is something 6 to 7 times greater.”

The Forum has a simple position on Business Rates, they should be fairer for businesses when compared to residential rates (in light of the revolution in online trading) as they are out of kilter with the value a property offers and are paid regardless of profitability. In terms of Re-evaluations that they should be predictable and reasonably frequent and go down as well as up.

The failure to evaluate properties in 2015 caused significant damage to companies particularly retailers and has been a contributory factor for the failure of small independent retailers to companies the size of BHS. So doing re-evaluations on a regular and frequent basis and when they are due is absolutely critical as is making sure the process is a simple one.

45% of our members would like to a simplification of the appeals process and 50% would like to see greater transparency in the assessment of properties. In addition the failure to re-evaluate properties in 2015 made this the biggest barrier to growth amongst our members.

Our feeling is that the self-assessment alternative is actually not viable at the moment, particularly as HMRC are increasing their requirements on businesses in the next few years with quarterly accounts. Another online assessment will actually cause more problems and not deal with the heart of the problem – the unfairness of the level of business rates and their complexity.

A formula approach, if this was clearly conveyed and kept simple would be the best option for our members as it would allow them to make modest improvements without being penalised, It would make the re-evaluation process more transparent and intelligible, perhaps even reducing the number of appeals made in the future – providing the formula is kept simple.

A major criticism made by the Forum is that the state is too dependent on business rate revenue for its own good and should consider increasing residential rates or other forms of taxation as business rates still appear to offer poor value for money despite many of the reforms that have been introduced.

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About Forum of Private Business

The Forum of Private Business is a not-for-profit comprehensive business support organisation founded in 1977. Our membership is spread throughout the UK and primarily made up of companies that employ between 1-50 employees, helping them to manage employees, saving time, giving advice, support and protection where a business needs it.

We are a recognised leading authority on business issues and represent the interests of business owners on many consultative bodies. We have built a solid reputation, being influential in many areas of policy-making, in changing laws that affect small businesses, and we continue to campaign for the fair treatment of businesses within the UK.

Everything we do is about making sure our members’ businesses operate profitably. This means that every penny we make goes back in to supporting our members, providing the support and resources that will enable businesses to flourish and grow.