Renewed call for business rates overhaul

Published on: August 13th, 2019

50 major retailers, including Hamleys, have written to the Chancellor demanding action.

Representatives from companies such as Asda, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Hamleys have written to Chancellor Sajid Javid calling for fundamental reforms to the taxes paid on their retail properties. “Retailers need support and incentives, not increased tax bills,” said the chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores.

The British Retail Consortium co-ordinated the letter, as new figures this week show the number of vacant shop units in town centres had risen to its highest level since 2015, with the vacancy rate hitting 10.3% last month.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said that the current system “holds back investment, threatens jobs and harms our high streets.”

The letter calls for a freeze in the business rates multiplier, which is set by the Government and adjusted each year in line with inflation, as well as reform to business rates relief.

The companies believe that the burden that rates places on high street businesses stifles growth and is a major contributor to the closure of stores, and demand that the changes should be the focus of an economic package promised by Boris Johnson to boost UK business.

Helen added: “The fact that over 50 retail CEOs have come together on this issue should send a powerful message to Government. Retail accounts for 5% of the economy yet pays 25% of all business rates. This disparity is damaging our high streets and harming the communities they support.”

Aside from this letter, Tesco has been building up support for an overhaul of business rates, writing to the bosses of rival retailers. CEO Dave Lewis has suggested that the government cuts business rates by 20%, making up the shortfall with a 2% levy on all online retail sales. However, response to his proposals has been mixed, with one retailer stating: “We are all trying to expand our online business, and this could hamper that, if we had to pay more tax for online sales.”

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