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Bailiffs target more firms over unpaid business rates

Councils are believed to have unleashed bailiffs on nearly 41,000 firms in England and Wales that have struggled to pay higher business rates, following the government’s revaluation last year.

According to ratings adviser Altus Group, bailiff instructions to collect the tax grew by 9% in the five months after the revaluation was brought in last April, compared with the previous year.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request, 247 local authorities revealed that 28,355 business premises liable for business rates had been referred to a bailiff for enforcement between 1 April and 31 August.

Altus Group said the number for all councils in England and Wales during the five-month period could be as high as 40,965, taking into account the nearly two million properties liable for business rates. 

A spokesman for the government said: “It is important that councils are proportionate in enforcement and use bailiffs only as a last resort. However, every pound of business rates not collected puts additional pressure on council budgets and their ability to deliver services.

“Following the revaluation, the majority of businesses saw no change or a fall in their business rates liability and a £3.6bn transitional relief scheme is providing support for the minority of businesses who face increases.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a further £435m package in this year’s spring Budget to support ratepayers following the revaluation.

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