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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 July 2007, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
How to reduce your business rates
Small clothes shop
Some small firms can find business rates a struggle
The relentless rise in business rates is the bane of many small firms.

Yet as business support boss George Derbyshire explains, there are ways you can try to get your rates reduced.

QUESTION
Wing-sze Tsoi, London
I run a small fashion boutique in Soho, central London.

For the past two years, my business rates had gone up 500 each year - it's getting out of control.

Since it's a considerable amount of money and my sales lately hadn't been that great, I called the council to try to get the rates reduced.

They said I have no choice but to pay.

I noticed there are a lot of websites that offer chartered surveyors to appeal the business rates for you.

Please help me if you have an idea on where I should turn for honest and helpful advice.

Many thanks for your help.

ANSWER
George Derbyshire, chief executive of the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies
Business rates (officially "non-domestic rates") are collected by local authorities, pooled by central government and then redistributed back to the local authorities again.

The key part of your rates bill is the rateable value, which is set by the valuation officers of the Valuation Office Agency - which in turn is part of HM Customs and Excise.

You can check the rateable value of your premises, and any others, on the VOA's website - link on the right.

You may also find the My Business Rates website helpful, which is another government portal.

It tells you how you can appeal against your rateable value and suggests some reasons which may apply - for example, you may believe the rating is too high compared with similar properties.

If you want to take professional advice, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors offers a free half-hour consultation on 0870 333 1600.

Remember also that small businesses (with one property or properties with a rateable value below 21,500 in Greater London or 15,000 outside London) qualify for small business rate relief - so check your bill to see that this has been applied.

Finally, I would advise caution in dealing with agents who offer to help you reduce your bill.

I would always advise using a recognised professional, such as a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation or the Rating Surveyors Association.


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