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Council took almost 450 firms to court for not paying business rates, figures reveal

PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 July 2018 | UPDATED: 07:29 26 July 2018

Bexley council offices. Pic: PAUL BENNETT

Bexley council offices. Pic: PAUL BENNETT

Archant

The council took almost 450 of the borough’s firms to court for failing to pay business rates, figures have revealed.

An investigation by real estate advisor Altus Group showed that Bexley Council in the last financial year hauled 447 firms before magistrates to recover the tax.

The figure – second lowest in London and gained through a freedom of information request sent to all councils but replied to by 25 – compares to first place Tower Hamlets (2,876) and Sutton’s low of 403.

There were 3,520 Bexley businesses liable for payment between April 2017 and March 2018 with 13 per cent taken to court.

Business rates are worked out based on a property’s ‘rateable value’ meaning its rental value on the open market. Rates are updated every five years.

On its relatively low numbers, a council spokeswoman said: “Bexley is a good place for businesses to set up and invest. Since 2010 there has been a 50pc increase in the number of enterprises in the borough.”

She added that money raised by business rates – set by national government – are invested in services which benefit people and businesses.

“We have a responsibility to all residents and to all taxpayers to collect business rates.

“However, we appreciate that some businesses need some flexibility and will work with them sensitively if they are experiencing difficulties,” she said.

Since 2017 Bexley has awarded £726,000 in rate relief and more than £6.2million in small business rate relief.

In 2017/18 it called before the courts 13pc of businesses in the borough of which 64pc paid up before the need arose to take further legal action.

The London-wide numbers fuelled claims new business rates – re-evaluated last year – were criminalising firms struggling to cope with an increasing tax burden.

Altus Group’s Robert Hayton said the overall findings went beyond simple tax avoidance.

“London was the hardest hit of any region under last year’s revaluation.

“It is therefore unsurprising that the level of summons being issued by councils in London was far higher than the overall average for England.”

Are you a business-owner with a story? If so, email Jon King at jonathan.king@archant.co.uk

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