The BCC is demanding action over mounting business rate concerns

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Hammond is expected to soften the blow of hiked rates to some of the hardest hit firms (Source: Getty)

Almost 40 per cent of UK firms are more concerned about business rates than three months ago, according to new research.

Figures from the British Chambers of Commerce show that business rates (39 per cent) were second only to exchange rates (42 per cent) in the number of firms reporting increased worries.

And among small businesses, concern is even higher with 50 per cent of firms saying business rate fears had grown.

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Speculation is rife chancellor Philip Hammond will this week reveal measures to protect hardest hit companies, with the BCC renewing calls for change, including appeals reform.

The BCC is also calling for the end of the fiscal neutrality principle in business rates reform, the end of plans to restrict the ability of the valuation tribunal for England to order changes, and an accelerated switch from the retail price index to the consumer price index, currently set for 2020.

Longer term, the business group is also demanding the removal of all plant and machinery from the valuation of property for business rates purposes.

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BCC director general Adam Marshall said: “Rising business concerns demonstrate the urgent need for action on business rates in the Budget this week. The UK had the highest business property taxes in the developed world even before the recent revaluation - hammering firms with sky-high costs before they turn over a single pound. This undermines business investment, which in 2016, fell for the first time in seven years.

“As the new bills kick in from April 1st, many will see this situation get worse with some facing double, even triple-digit growth in the amount they must pay. Businesses face a tipping point: with rates rising for many and the combined costs of currency depreciation, the new National Living Wage, pensions auto-enrolment and rising energy prices - urgent action is needed to reduce the upfront costs of doing business.