Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne used his last budget of this Parliament to reconfirm his commitment to carry out the most “far-reaching” and “radical” review into the business rates system in a generation, kick-starting a process that leads the way to changes to how businesses across England pay the tax.
The government first revealed that it would carry out a comprehensive review of the outdated system during last year’s Autumn Statement and businesses were encouraged by the publication of its terms of reference this week, say the British Retail Consortium (BRC). It was also confirmed that the government would go ahead with further help on rates including the extension of both the small business rates relief for another year and transitional rate relief to support small business facing significant bill increases due to the ending of transitional rate relief. Retailers will also see roll over for another year of the discount for retailers with properties of less than £50,000 rateable value.
Commenting on the business rates announcement BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “We welcome the official announcement of a ‘radical’ review of the business rates system and we’re looking forward to working with the government throughout the process to make sure a new system is modern, sustainable and crucially – competitive.
“It’s important then to get the review process right, so that we don’t waste this great opportunity and can guarantee that we end up with a system which is better for business, better for local government and better for the communities that retailers and other rate payers serve every day. The government is now seeking the views of UK business on a whole range of questions about the future structure of the system. In addition, it’s critical that it seeks an authoritative and independent analysis as the review progresses, so as to ensure the final solutions are based on objective, robust hard evidence.
“There are plenty of interpretations of what fiscal neutrality means and I would encourage that as broad a view as possible is taken. Another positive step forward for the government to take would be to explain what is meant by fiscal neutrality.
“With cross-party political support for a fundamental review of business rates I’m confident that we can put an end to this drag on our local and national economy.”
She added: “Improving mobile networks and digital infrastructure, bringing ultrafast broadband of at least 100 megabits per second to nearly all homes in the country are all worthy ambitions. Digital technology is increasingly playing a vital role in guaranteeing that our high streets are attractive, sustainable and can meet consumers’ ever-increasing expectations.”