Business Rates: More losers than winners?

Business Rates: More losers than winners?


Northern Ireland’s Business Debtline, delivered by Advice NI predicts some winners and some losers in the recent changes to business rates, and reports a marked increase in the number of business owners seeking advice as a result of concerns regarding rising rates bills.

Small retailers across Northern Ireland, many of whom are already struggling in the tough economic times will have nervously opened their new business rates bills to establish if they are due an increase.

All 73,000 non-domestic properties, including shops, offices and factories, have been officially revalued for the first time since 2001, and the new bills arrived on the doorsteps at the start of April 2015.

Business rates bills are based on the valuation of the business premises and those properties that have become relatively less valuable will now attract lower rates, which could result in new life being breathed into some ailing high streets with currently empty premises becoming more attractive.

On the other side of the spectrum, those who have received higher bills will include large supermarkets and out of town retail park areas, along with areas which were previously mainly derelict and have undergone extensive regeneration since the last revaluation. However, this can also have a knock on effect to small businesses in these areas, which may be less able to absorb any increase to their business rates.

Aside from retail, the new rates bills are expected to bring a mixed picture for the pub and hospitality trade. The majority of this sector should see a fall in their business rates, however those now in popular areas which since the last revaluation have seen significant investment and growth in popularity, such as Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, will most likely see a substantial rise which could in turn put an excessive strain on their ability to trade.

Bob Stronge, Chief Executive of Advice NI commented:

To date, nearly one in ten clients who have used Business Debtline have done so with business rate issues, and we would anticipate this figure to increase going forward as many small businesses will be facing a rise in their rates bills.

The retail sector has also represented almost 24 percent of all Business Debtline clients, which is a clear representation of the struggles this sector has experienced in the economic downturn. Any increases now to business rates for the small retailer will undoubtedly place added pressure to what is already an extremely challenging trading environment.

I would urge any small business owner in Northern Ireland who may struggle to cope with an increase to their business rates, or who is experiencing any financial difficulties to seek free advice from Business Debtline as soon as possible.  Our service is available to give local small businesses the help and support they need to get back on their feet and continue trading.


Advice NI provides the Business Debtline service in Northern Ireland, the only free debt advice service for small business owners and sole traders in Northern Ireland in partnership with the Money Advice Trust. To date the service has helped over 760 clients with business-related debts across Northern Ireland, and in a recent survey revealed that 71 percent of respondents were able to overcome their immediate problems and continue to trade.

Small business owners in Northern Ireland can contact Business Debtline Monday to Friday between 9.30am and 5.30pm on 0800 0838 018.

They can also visit or to access a range of further information for business owners with financial difficulties, including factsheets, budget tools and sample letters.


For editors

Business Debtline’s Golden Rules on dealing with debt:


  • Do not ignore the problem! This situation will not go away and could make matters worse.
  • Ensure that you are claiming all the benefits and tax credits you are entitled to. If you are unsure about the benefits you may be able to claim, call us for advice.
  • Be sure to deal with your priority debts first. These are the debts that have the worst sanctions if you do not pay them.
  • Stay in contact with your creditors. It is important that you let your creditors know you are having difficulty and ensure that they know exactly what is happening as this can help when you are ready to negotiate with them.
  • Check to see if you have any Payment Protection Insurance (PPI).  This may cover your payments if you are out of work due to illness or redundancy.
  • Work out your budget and stick to it. If you are a sole trader or in a partnership you can use our business and household budget sheet to help you work out your income and outgoings. If you are trading as a limited company or limited liability partnership, call us for advice.
  • Never offer more money than you can realistically afford. Working out your budget will help you to determine how much you can offer to each of your creditors. It is much better to pay a small amount regularly than commit to a payment arrangement that you cannot realistically afford and are likely to default on.
  • Treat all of your creditors fairly. Do not be tempted to pay some creditors more than others or to negotiate a reduced payment with some creditors and not others. This can hinder any negotiations that you are currently making with your creditors and in some instances make them more aggressive in their approach.
  • Persevere with your offers and stick to your guns. Even if your creditors are not being helpful or are continuously refusing your offers. Start paying what you have offered or you can keep the money aside so you can offer a lump sum at a later date.
  • Think carefully before taking out further credit to clear your debts. Always seek advice before choosing this option as you could end up paying a higher interest rate or having to secure the debt to your home or business premises.
  • Keep copies of all paperwork, letters and receipts. These are important for future reference and can help you complete your tax return.


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For further information contact Barry Turley on 07734 256318

Notes to Editors:

  1. For further information contact  Bob Stronge, Chief Executive Advice NI, 1 Rushfield Avenue, Belfast BT7 3FP  Tel: (028) 9064 5919 Mob: 07789756954
  2. Advice NI is the umbrella body for the independent advice network in Northern Ireland and has approximately 65 members across NI who provide advice on debt, benefits, housing to name a few. Advice NI members deal with almost 250,000 enquiries per year, with the majority being social security benefits and debt related.
  3. If you would like to find out more visit our websites