Weather and taxes take toll

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While severe weather has had a negative impact on small firms, a snap poll suggests that fuel duty will have more of an impact on businesses.

A quarter of small businesses had to close during the recent severe weather and heavy snowfall, many for at least five days and overall costing the majority up to £5k, new figures from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) show.

In a snap poll of 1,300 members, 24% of small firms said they had to close, of these 37% said they closed for up to five days and an additional 7% closed for more than five days for a number of reasons, including transport disruption, staff absences and loss of access to their premises.

In addition, on January 4 planned tax increases came into force, raising VAT to 20% and putting fuel duty rates at a record high. More than a third (39%) of small businesses said that the rise in fuel duty will have a significant impact on their business, followed by the rise in VAT (27%), while only 24% saying snow had had a similar impact.

The severe weather and heavy snowfall caused huge disruption to small firms with a third (30%) claiming that up to 50% of their staff were absent for at least one day. The impact of the snow cost six in 10 (58%) up to £5k and 13% more than this.

The FSB says it is concerned that the unprecedented weather when combined with the high rates in fuel duty will put small businesses on a knife-edge.

The FSB is calling on the Government to put in place its promised fuel duty stabiliser – a mechanism to ensure an automatic freeze on fuel duty increases and a reduction in duty to match any increases in VAT revenues from higher pump prices – to avoid a relentless flow of fuel duty increases.

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