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FSB and FPB join calls for a business rates freeze

Lowering business costs should be a priority for the chancellor of the exchequer in next month’s Autumn Statement, according to both the FSB and the PFB.

The Federation of Small Businesses has written to George Osborne urging him to take action against energy and business rates and to press forward with tax simplification to strengthen economic recovery.

FSB research suggests business rates is an area which needs addressing as a priority. They are a significant cost for small firms and unrelated to their economic activity, with some paying more in business rates than in rent.  

More than a quarter of a million firms rely on 100 per cent rate relief to survive, but relief at this rate is due to expire next year. The impact of this would be equivalent to introducing a new tax on 293,000 small and micro businesses just as the economy is starting to recover, says the FSB.
With rates bills set to increase by 3.2 per cent in 2014 – as set by September’s RPI inflation figure – the FSB wants to see the temporary doubling of small business rates relief made permanent, and a freeze in rates for firms in properties below £18,000.

Meanwhile utilities bills are one of the main causes of rising business costs. These are set to rise further as energy companies have announced above inflation price increases. To help offset these harmful effects, the FSB has called for reforms to make it far easier for the smallest of businesses to get a competitive energy deal.
Unlike household tariffs, business energy prices are not published so small firms have to get quotes from each supplier in order to get a good deal.

The FSB is calling for the energy companies to publish tariffs which are meaningfully comparable from one supplier to the next as a much needed first step to introducing transparency to the murky SME retail energy market.

And the call for a freeze in business rates – first proposed by the British Chambers of Commerce on Sunday – has been echoed by the Forum of Private Business.

With over 97 percent of its members believing that property taxation is too high, the Forum is asking for an extension of Small Business Rate Relief until the end of the current parliament and an independent study to look at the current system of business rates.

The Forum is also calling for continued commitment maintaining a freeze on fuel duty until 2015.

In its submission, the FPB has also called for a strengthening of the rules around the enforcement of the Prompt Payment Code, and for the chancellor to look at ways to make it easier for small businesses to access to alternative forms of finance, in particular peer-to-peer lending, by reviewing how current restrictions are making it difficult for small firms to obtain new finance to fund growth.

The Autumn Statement will be made on Thursday, December 5.