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A Budget for (big) business – but not much for small firms

Touted by the Chancellor himself during his dispatch box introductions as a Budget which would 'unashamedly back business', owners of SMEs may well have got quite excited.

Was this going to be a sea change moment with a fiscal road map to light the UK's economic touch-paper?

Well, no, not really, and certainly not for small businesses. What we got was all rather underwhelming.

For while the Chancellor's budget did indeed offer some welcome inclusions, there were many glaring omissions. Plenty too for big business to cheer about, but for small firms there was little of substance to put a spring in their step for the 2012/13 financial year.

There was, for instance, nothing on reducing the mounting burden of business rates, or fuel duty – two crucial areas the Chancellor had within his power to change course on and in doing so make a real difference for small business.

These for most small firms will mean serious pain ahead – perhaps felt more acutely on our high streets which are already under the cosh from falling footfall.

With regards fuel duty, the Chancellor's refusal to bring any relief will mean many businesses looking ahead to August with trepidation when the 3p increase bites, and could be a body blow too far for many small firms.

The hope has to be that the current record breaking forecourt prices will have tumbled by then, but if that does not happen, and prices continue to skyrocket as they have done since December – by almost 10p a litre – there will be pain ahead.

As for business rates – and no further Government relief here – this is a hit for small firms with the rate remaining unchanged at 5.6%. In our pre-Budget submission we made a strong case for the rate to be slashed down to 2% to help struggling high street traders.

This big increase will land next month and will do nothing to help existing traders, and certainly won't encourage new ones.

One of the most important announcements in the Budget we have welcomed was news of the simplification of the tax system for micro-businesses. Making tax simple and proportionate was one of the main pillars of our Get Britain Trading campaign, and was a key element of our pre-Budget submission.

Only those firms with a turnover of less than £77,000 will benefit from this new policy – so a scheme squarely aimed at the micro-sector. So, while this is great news for these traders, those earning above that threshold – even by just a pound – won't benefit. So there's still much room for improvement in the years ahead for larger firms.

Overall, an underwhelming Budget for small business, but with a few concessions added to help make it not a complete wright-off.

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