Some of the UK’s biggest retailers have come together to demand action is taken over the current business rates system.

Aside from the ongoing problems the High Street continues to face with competition from online shopping, businesses are also concerned that a no-deal Brexit will put considerably more strain on retailers.

As a result, business leaders have called on the government to reform the broken business rates system and to prioritise the issue in order to boost businesses and investment.

More than 50 companies, including Debenhams, Harrods, John Lewis, Ann Summers, Marks & Spencer and River Island have written to chancellor Sajid Javid asking for four changes to take place. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) have also signed the letter.

One proposed change includes reforming transitional relief, which limits how much a bill can change following revolution. The letter urges:

“To overturn the unfairness whereby businesses in the Midlands and North of England pay an artificially high rates bill in order to fund staggered rate bill increases for those in London and the South East who should be paying more, and to allow market forces to operate as intended.”

Businesses are also asking for changes to take place in other areas including:

  • A freeze in the business rate multiplier to stop yet another tax rise and to aid in investment in the economy and business planning
  • The introduction of a new improvement relief for rate payers to tackle the disincentive to businesses that want to invest in properties but are penalised with higher business rates
  • The Valuation Office Agency is adequately funded so that it can address the 16,000 unresolved appeals which date back as far as 2010

It states that these four recommendations “could be undertaken quickly, would reduce regional disparities, remove barriers to the proper working of market forces, incentivise economic investment and cut away at bureaucracy”.

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium chief executive, commented:

“These four fixes would be an important step to reform the broken business rates system, which holds back investment, threatens jobs and harms our high streets. Retail accounts for 5% of the economy yet pays 25% of all business rates – this disparity is damaging our high streets.”

James Lowman, chief executive at the Association of Convenience Stores, added:

“The Government’s first priority should be extending rate relief for more businesses and for beyond the next financial year.” 

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