Ulster Unionist MLA, Jo-Anne Dobson, has revealed there has been a five-fold increase in appeals against their rates bill compared to the same period last year.
Figures contained in an Assembly Question tabled by the Upper Bann MLA to the Finance Minister show that Land & Property Services (LPS) received 1,394 non-domestic appeals between 1 April and 31 May this year compared to 289 in the same period last year.
Ms Dobson said the statistics showed a worrying level of concern amongst retailers since the recalculation of commercial rates in the province by LPS.
“Many local businesses have been hit hard by sharp hikes in their rates bills following the review and without help will struggle to pay this additional levy,” she said.
“A trend does appear to be emerging with petrol station forecourts being amongst the hardest hit.”
For many those increases added up to thousands of pounds in some cases, she said adding that her own constituency bills had risen by as much as 300 per cent.
Inevitably that had forced many to put on hold and reconsider future plans, she said.
“These figures show that in increasing numbers businesses across Northern Ireland are formally requesting a review of the Net Annual Value of their property following the non-domestic revaluation.”
“What the Minster must remember is that a business which ceases to trade cannot pay any rates at all.
“I want to see our small businesses allowed to grow and flourish, not be held back or forced to close because of crippling rates bills.
“Given the sheer volume of appeals being lodged with LPS I am concerned that the process will become drawn out and cumbersome. I have written to the Minister to request that additional personnel are brought in to ensure this doesn’t happen.”
“It would be devastating to the local economy if these sharp increases become fatal blows to small businesses, and in turn lead to lost investment and lost jobs.”