Following research into the guidance found on over 280 council websites in England, Oxfordshire-based chartered surveyors Bankier Sloan found that the overwhelming majority of local authorities have not outlined that businesses can still apply for a rates refund back to April 2010.
The study also highlighted the continuing variation in advice given by local councils on the subject of Small Business Rates Relief, with 40% stating that firms do not need to make an application, 40% stating they do and 20% making no reference on how to apply.
Businesses that have one property can claim 100% rates relief if their premises has a rateable value of less than £6,000, while a reduction in rates is available for companies that have one property with a rateable value between £6,000 and £12,000.
Since April 2012 local councils have also been obliged to send out rates demands to companies whose rateable values are between £12,000 and £18,000 using the Small Business Rates Multiplier, rather than the Standard Rate Multiplier. It means these firms may also seek a refund.The scheme, which is funded by central Government, will remain in place until at least April 2015.
Bankier Sloan’s first report on this subject in November 2013 found that fewer than 20% of councils had clear and up-to-date guidance on how to apply for the relief, while a follow-up study in March this year revealed that businesses are still missing out on refunds due to the lack of information provided by councils.
'Poorly laid out'
Ian Sloan, who headed the team carrying out the research, said a significant number of councils have improved their websites but many documents from authorities “remain poorly laid out, giving historic and inaccurate information and, as a result, discourage local companies from applying for a relief to which they are fully entitled”.
He says he believes there there are still thousands of companies who are failing to benefit from the scheme and the average refund available to those who have not claimed could be as high as £8,000. He added the Government has confirmed that there remains “at least £100m” of unclaimed relief due to small businesses.
“We have worked hard over the last nine months to publicise this important scheme which gives industry considerable financial benefit and we hope within a year all local authorities will be publicising the correct information,” Sloan said.
“Experience tells us that even when errors are drawn to the attention of councils they are often either unwilling or unable to acknowledge their errors and, as a result, continue to distribute incorrect information.”
Bankier Sloan will be publishing an updated report in early 2015. View the new study here.