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How SMEs can survive business rates chaos

The revaluation of business rates continues to be a major headache for SMEs. Many bills have risen, the rates relief fund has been slow to pay out and now the new appeals system is mired in controversy. Alternative finance can help.

At a time when small businesses have to contend with a range of demands on capital, including payments relating to cyber-security, pension auto-enrolment and new living wage regulations, as well as the impact of Brexit-borne market sluggishness, the revision to the business rates system and how the transformation is being handled is threatening to be the straw that breaks the camel back.

Many small business owners have been stung by an increase in business rates this year. With many firms operating on wafer-thin margins, the hike has caused consternation. Responding to outcry, the government announced a rates relief fund to help those companies in trouble. However, the glacial pace at which the funds have been distributed has only served to further antagonise those that need the cash the most.

The latest chapter in this saga concerns the business rates appeal system. Tellingly, the chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses has labelled it a shambles, while it has been reported that the government ignored industry concerns about the system, including those raised by domestic giants such as Boots, Tesco, BT and Greene King.

While the barbs fly in the media, small business owners are left counting the cost of managing the business rates revision and the failure to adequately manage the relief fund or the appeals system.

So, how can alternative finance help? On its own or as part of a wider financial strategy, it can help small businesses safeguard capital and maintain cashflow. The accessibility, affordability and flexibility of services such as invoice finance, asset finance, peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding are giving firms the ability to deal with rising bills at a time of market softness, and to target growth.

The rapid growth of the alternative finance, which has been spearheaded by a dramatic surge in the popularity of invoice finance, is testament to how the SME funding landscape has changed and how important the role of non-bank finance has become.

With business rates proving more than ever a thorn in the side of SMEs, alternative finance offers some protection against the pain.

To find out more about A&T Business Associates services, contact us on 01903 602211 or info@atbusinessassociates.co.uk.

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