The Government and the banks have been urged to lend their support to firms hit hard by the severe winter weather.

Businesses are being urged to ready themselves for the increase in the standard rate of VAT set for 4 January.

The new standard rate of VAT could become a permanent feature of the business landscape.

There is a mix of strategies among business for dealing with the hike in VAT that is due to take effect as from 4 January next year.

Some 35,000 extra jobs could be created if the threshold at which small firms pay VAT is lifted, a leading business group has claimed.

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