Tax credit change will save £115m

Businesses are expected to save up to £115m a year in administration costs following changes to the way the government pays working tax credits that were announced earlier this week.

HM Revenue and Customs said on Monday it would be phasing out the payment of working tax credit by employers. All new claimants will have their working tax credit paid direct into their bank, building society or post office card account and existing claimants will also be switched to the new system over the next five months.

The move was welcomed by the Federation of Small Businesses, although the organisation urged the government to extend the practice to other benefits and taxes still being administered by employers on behalf of HMRC.

Rates rebates are going unclaimed

Many businesses are missing out on a rebate on their business rates because they have not applied for it, according to the Forum of Private Business. The right to a rebate was introduced last April for companies that occupy premises of a rateable value of less than £10,000. For premises with a rateable value of £5,000 or less, a rebate of 50 per cent rates relief can be claimed.

Rex Garratt, the FPB’s spokesman, said: “Many firms are still unaware that they can claim a rebate they pay to their local council. It does not come through automatically.”

Equality bill will hit hotels and bars

Hotels, pubs and restaurants will be banned from discriminating against lesbian, gay and bisexual people following an amendment to the government’s equality bill tabled by Lord Alli, the Labour peer and broadcasting magnate, and Lord Lester, the Liberal Democrat lawyer.

The measure is expected to result in new laws that will prevent hotels and guest houses from refusing rooms to same-sex couples. But it should also mean that gay bars and nightclubs will have to accept straight customers, a measure that is likely to be contested by venues that have routinely barred disruptive stag night parties.

The equality bill, which was debated at its third reading in the House of Lords this week, will also outlaw discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

Women’s enterprise commission floated

Business leaders this week called for the government to create a national women’s enterprise commission to further the impact of female business owners.

The call was led by Isabella Moore, the west Midlands businesswoman and former president of the British Chambers of Commerce.

She said: “I am delighted that female business ownership is growing but the stark fact is that the UK remains well behind the US in the rate of growth.”

The campaign is calling for the body to be created for a fixed term of three years with support from the regional development agencies.

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