Small firms brand business rates as ‘incomprehensible’

THREE out of five firms find business rates “incomprehensible” and one-in-five did not know they could appeal against their properties’ valuation, according to data published today by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland.

The last re-valuation of business premises took place in 2010, based on data gathered before the economic downturn in 2008, but only 18 per cent of FSB members appealed against the taxes levied on their properties.

In evidence to the Scottish Government’s business rates review, the FSB will today call for the system to be made “more accessible and comprehensible”.

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The body also said that MSPs should regularly scrutinise the work of “Scottish Assessors”, the civil servants who calculate business premises’ market values.

Colin Borland, the head of external affairs in Scotland for the FSB, said: “The majority of our members report that they find their rates calculations incomprehensible. At the very least, businesses should be given much clearer information about how their bills are calculated.”

A separate UK-wide survey by the Forum of Private Business found 94 per cent of firms think business rates are now too high, with two-thirds claiming they saw no return for their money.

Phil Orford, the forum’s chief executive, said: “Business rates are the most despised of all commercial taxes by today’s small business owner in the UK.

“It’s a crippling tax that business owners simply have no choice but to pay and, for many who claim to see no discernible benefit to having paid up, it clearly sticks in their craw.”

The British Retail Consortium will today call for a further freeze on business rates after a report will show the cost of running retail businesses in the UK has risen by £20 billion to £116bn since 2006.