Business rates up for 42% of Northern Ireland firms
Rates bills have risen for almost half of Northern Ireland businesses, according to new figures.
A total of 42% of companies have higher costs following the reval uation earlier this year, and almost a quarter, 23%, said they were struggling to cope.
The findings formed part of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce latest Quarterly Economic Survey.
Ann McGregor, chamber chief executive, said businesses were calling for "root and branch" reform of the system.
She said: "Business rates is a tax that hits companies of all sizes long before they make a profit, and impacts on business growth and investment. Our members are of the view that the business rates system in Northern Ireland is in need of reform to make it more reflective of economic conditions."
There were 341 responses to the study - the region's largest private business survey.
Almost 80% of those questioned, said business rates should be overhauled with suggestions that a new system could be based on profits or size of the business rather than the scale of a particular property.
A Land and Property Services review of 73,000 non-domestic properties, including shops, offices and factories took effect in April.
It marked the first revaluation of rates since 2001.
Some town centre companies saw their bills decline while those in out of town retail parks reported a jump.
Those affected by the price hikes said they had less scope for pricing competitively and have had to save by cutting labour costs, slashing overtime and restricting training.
Others claimed they may have to relocate.
Ms McGregor said efforts should also be made to "spread the costs" and "lessen the burden" on existing ratepayers.
She added: "Companies also need a much clearer understanding of what their business rates actually pay for."