Smaller businesses will be “hammered” by new commercial rates

Local councillors have described proposed new commercial rates as “another blow to small businesses”, with the news that some local businesses are facing hikes of up to 300 per cent in rates.

Business owners across counties Westmeath, Roscommon, and Longford received a letter from the Valuation Office on Monday morning, setting out the new Proposed Valuation on their premises.

However, it appears that the rates, which will apply from January 1 next year, are likely to rise for small to medium businesses, while larger operations may see their rates bill decrease.

The letters also caused some confusion as the figure that appeared in the letter was a valuation which will be used to calculate commercial rates for 2018 and beyond, and not a rates bill in itself.

Cllr Aengus O’Rourke (FF ) said people were shocked and confused at the content of this week’s letter.

“The letters received on Monday were not very helpful. People got a terrible fright,” said Cllr O’Rourke, who said that one business person had contacted him as he thought his rates bill was going up from €3,000 to €22,000.

“From talking to businesses locally the trend would appear to favour those occupying a large footprint in big buildings and against those operating in retail from smaller units. This is a very worrying trend. The small operator in and around our town is already overburdened with charges in general... Small businesses seem to be hammered at every turn.

“I myself have seen my rates increase by 140 per cent and I will be vigorously appealing this. I have been inundated with business owners calling me having received their notification on Monday last. In some cases they have seen an increase of 300 per cent.”

Cllr O’Rourke said the current rates system is “outdated and convoluted”, and encouraged business owners to appeal if they feel their valuation is unfair.

“I encourage anyone who feels that they have been unfairly assessed to appeal their proposed valuation. The appeals period runs to February 17 and details on the appeals process are available on www.valoffice.ie

Representatives from the Valuations Office will be available in Athlone Civic Centre from 10am-4pm on January 30 and 31 to take queries from local business people.

Cllr Michael O’Brien (Ind ) said the “unreasonable” increases would hit businesses hard.

“I totally understand the frustration at these letters, the poor layout, and any hike in rates that they may incur as a result. Businesses have worked so hard to keep their doors open and sustain jobs in recent years and should not be subjected to any unreasonable hikes.

“It is a step in the wrong direction in terms of trying to help small and medium businesses, who provide 250,000 jobs across the country. The increase could be the difference of a part-time staff member.”

The revaluation of all non-domestic property in Ireland is currently underway through a programme known as the National Revaluation Programme. In order to estimate liability for 2018, the new Proposed Valuation (NAV ) should be multiplied by 0.2, which is an approximation of what the annual rate of valuation will be.

Further information is available on www.westmeathcoco.ie and www.valoff.ie

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