More than three in four eligible small firms in danger of missing out on 50% rates refund

Senator urges extension of May 1st deadline to ‘facilitate greater awareness’ of the grant scheme among shops, hairdressers, pubs and cafes

Concerns have been raised that fewer than 25 per cent of eligible small firms have applied for a grant aimed at addressing the increased cost of business.

Small businesses such as shops, hairdressers, pubs and cafes are eligible for a refund of up to 50 per cent of their rates bill for 2023, and Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher appealed for the application deadline for the grant to be extended beyond the May 1st deadline.

Mr Gallagher said that approximately 130,000 businesses are entitled to apply for the grant but only 30,000 have applied to date and “the uptake of this grant among businesses is very concerning. This clearly illustrates that we have a problem in that businesses are not aware of the grant.”

Under the scheme businesses with a bill of up to €10,000 are eligible for a 50 per cent refund, or €5,000. A business with a rates bill of €8,000 last year is eligible for a €4,000 refund, he said. “For businesses with bills of between €10,000 and €30,000, the maximum grant is the lesser of 50 per cent or €5,000. That amounts to a good grant,” he said.


Raising the issue in the Seanad, he said an extension of up to four weeks on the deadline would allow time to “facilitate greater awareness of the scheme and to allow time for local authorities to contact businesses to alert them to this grant”.

He said: “I have been in business for the best part of 20 years and people are so busy doing the day-to-day and keeping the ship afloat that they do not get time to know what is going on around them.”

The Monaghan-based Senator appealed to Seanad leader Lisa Chambers to write to Minister for Enterprise Peter Burke “and take the common-sense approach of extending this deadline for another three or four weeks so businesses trying to keep the ship afloat will have more time to apply for this grant”.

Ms Chambers said that “more of an effort needs to be made to ensure that eligible businesses are aware of this grant. I’m sure we can increase the uptake for this important grant from the Government to support small businesses.”

Former minister for enterprise Simon Coveney introduced a €257 million package for the grant as part of Budget 2024, with local authorities rolling the scheme out to qualifying businesses.

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath has already indicated that further measures to assist small businesses could be introduced before Budget 2025 to help businesses facing difficulty. Taoiseach Simon Harris had signalled that support for small businesses would a be priority for the Government. A report from Mr Coveney which examined the impact of various policy measures the Government had introduced to improve working conditions had identified the necessity of “in particular improving rates of pay, minimum wage and improving certain leave entitlements and so on”.

“There is a cost to business, arising from the combined effect of all of those measures,” Mr McGrath said. “And as a result of that, we have already indicated a number of moves that we are prepared to make.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times