Call for firms to appeal rates bills

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Jo-Anne Dobson MLA is urging local businesses to consider appealing their rates bills for the 2015/2016 financial year.

Mrs Dobson was told during the Assembly that half of the appeals completed have resulted in a fall in the bills.

Some local businesses saw considerable rises in their rates bills last April. Businesses have until the end of next month to appeal their rates bills for 15/16 financial year onwards because after April 1 any successful reduction on appeal will not be passed back for the 15/16 financial year.

The local MLA has expressed her shock after it was revealed to her through Assembly Written Question that half of the appeals lodged by local businesses against their rates bills since April last year have resulted in reduction in the overall charge levied.

On behalf of a number of local businesses Mrs Dobson raised the issue with the Finance Minister and the response to her question show that Land and Property Services (LPS) has completed 1,512 non domestic appeals and of these 739 have resulted in reduced bills.

Mrs Dobson said: “The widespread hikes in rates bills last April led to much shock and concern amongst the small business community in Northern Ireland. In some cases bills rose by as much as 300 per cent in one year, leaving many to put on hold and reconsider their future plans for employment and investment.

“Now for the first time figures show that in over half the 1,512 cases reviewed up to last month the original Net Annual Value was incorrect with 739 being reduced and 60 increased.

“Last June I raised this issue with the then Finance Minister, Arlene Foster in the Assembly. I was told that ‘all ratepayers have the opportunity to have their rateable value checked.”