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Firms delay tax bills in downturn

Thousands of UK firms are being forced to strike deals to delay tax bills as they struggle in the recession. More than 200,000 companies have signed up to an HM Revenue & Customs scheme, putting off payments of around £3.6bn in total. The so-called “time to pay” scheme was introduced in last year’s budget to offer companies some relief from VAT, national insurance contributions and other levies. In London, more than 23,440 firms have struck arrangements worth £529m.