Sunak urged to reform rates that ‘hammer’ local retailers


Letter signed by 11 business improvement districts calls for overhaul of under-fire tax to help ailing high street.

Thousands of hairdressers, cafés, pubs, chemists and family offices that have been “hammered” by sky-high bills have called for an overhaul of the business rates system and other taxes.

In a letter sent to Rishi Sunak, the new Chancellor, about 128,000 businesses from across the UK, which together pay £4.2bn in rates each year, demanded reforms.

They join a chorus of other aggrieved bricks-and-mortar firms – retailers in particular – that have long called for an overhaul of the tax at a time when they are struggling with higher day-to-day costs, including wages.

The letter was signed by 11 so-called business improvement districts (BID), which raise and inject cash back into high streets, towns and city centres.

Chris Turner, the chief executive of British BIDs, said: “While our economy rightfully evolves, high-street retailers and other businesses are struggling with competition from online retailers, and sadly this has resulted in many [sites] closing – for good.”

Everything you need to know about Business rates 

Business rates are taxes paid on non-residential properties, such as shops, offices, factories, and pubs.

If you occupy a building, or part of one, that you use for non-domestic purposes, then you’ll probably be required to pay business rates.

The amount owed will depend on the “rateable value” of the property. This is based on the annual market rent value, which is determined by the Valuation Office Agency, using other rents in the local area to work out an average.

These values are usually reviewed every five years and take into account the size of the property and its usage. The most recent revaluation came into effect on April 1, 2017, based on rateable values from April 1, 2015, rather than their 2008 values.

As a result, the majority of British companies, which have properties with a rateable value of more than £15,000, have faced soaring rates bills as rents have increased considerably since the recession.

Traditional firms say they shoulder an unfairly high burden from business rates, which are based on a property’s estimated value and can run to millions of pounds a year for department stores in prominent places.

Internet-only rivals such as Amazon rely on vast out-of-town warehouses and pay much lower rates as a result.

Mr Turner added: “We would like you to work urgently to level the playing field... with a fair and transparent digital tax.”

The businesses called for a review of other “major taxes” such as VAT, corporation tax, and national insurance to “accomodate the growing number of online companies forming part of our economy... making for a very uneven and unfair operating environment”. 

Read the full article here.


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