Small firms benefit from relief
Cautious welcome for record rise in rates relief
Derek Mackay: ‘we are doing everything in our powers’ (photo by Terry Murden)
A record number small firms benefited from rates relief in the past year, according to official figures, though the figures received a cautious welcome.
They show that 103,701 firms were took advantage of the Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS), an increase from 102,394 in the previous 12 months.
The SBBS provided £226m, an increase from £180m, due mainly to the raising of the 100% relief threshold to £15,000 rateable value.
The number of properties receiving SBBS relief over the past 9 years has increased by more than 60% from 64,179 in 2008-09. Likely reasons for this increase include expansion of the scheme and greater awareness of the scheme.
The figures equate to an average saving per property of more than £2,000.
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “Since its introduction, the Small Business Bonus Scheme has saved businesses in Scotland almost £1.5 billion and offers the most generous package of reliefs available to small businesses anywhere in the UK.
“To maximise take up I will shortly write to ratepayers potentially eligible for SBBS, but not claiming it.
“We are doing everything within our powers to support our economy and make Scotland the best place for business to invest.
“We have gone beyond the Barclay Review recommendations with new measures to drive investment. In addition to the growth accelerator, where businesses pay no rates for the first year on new or improved properties, we will ensure every new build property does not pay a penny in rates until it is occupied for the first time.”
The figures were welcomed by businesses, but said larger businesses were continuing to suffer and there was more the government could be doing on rates reform.
Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “Without this rates help, Scottish firms tell us they would scale back investment, and their plans for growth. This vital scheme forms the centrepiece of the Scottish Government’s package of help for smaller firms.
On business rate reform, he said: “The Barclay review of business rates came up with many sensible proposals – and we’ve been impressed with the Scottish Government’s grit to address many of the tax’s most outdated elements.
“However, as we look toward to the Scottish Government’s 2017/18 budget, Ministers must recognise that the administration of the rates system is in disarray. This muddle is harming the implementation of their policies. The Scottish Government should step in.”
David Lonsdale: ‘three quarters of retail employment in Scotland is concentrated in businesses which currently receive no relief’ (photo by Terry Murden)
The Scottish Retail Consortium’s director David Lonsdale said: “The small business bonus scheme is welcome recognition of the need to keep down costs for firms.
“But policy makers should be mindful that around three quarters of retail employment in Scotland is concentrated in businesses which currently receive no relief through the SBBS.
“The overall rates burden remains onerous, at a time when retailers are grappling with profound changes in shopping habits and other growing government-controlled costs.
“With another rise in business rates on the cards next April, it is important that swift progress is made on implementing the Barclay reforms including restoring parity with England on the large firms rates supplement which affects one in every ten commercial premises.”