Credit: John Nguyen for the Telegraph
Half a million companies will start paying higher business rates today without knowing whether they can benefit from a new £300 million relief package.
Restaurants, high street shops and businesses in the South East and London are among those worst affected by the first revaluation in seven years.
Some firms face a rise of around 50 per cent in the business tax and will have just 14 days to pay their first monthly installment.
However a new support fund announced by the Chancellor last month is not yet up and running and businesses do not know if they will be able to benefit.
A consultation on how the scheme will work has not been completed and each council will be free to decide for themselves who can be given financial support.
Experts expressed “huge concern” that businesses could be left in uncertainty for months because the scheme may not be fully operational until the summer.
Government sources last night defended the fund by saying it was only announced last month and indicating ministers want it ready by the end of April.
Jerry Schurder, head of business rates at Gerald Eve, said: “Whilst the package of measures announced in the Budget will eventually bring benefit to some businesses, the current uncertainty as to who will qualify and to what extent, is of huge concern.
“Rates bills landing on doormats now do not include any of the new reliefs and demand payment of the first monthly instalment within the next few days.