By Stuart Hicks, Director
Recommendations for business rate reform seem to be falling on deaf ears in government these days.
Way back in October the Treasury Select Committee concluded to much national media fanfare that the system was “not fit for purpose” and should be reviewed to ensure it fell in line with current government policy to encourage investment.
However, the government’s recent official response to the inquiry is defending the business rates’ system and brushes away concerns to be dealt with in the fundamental review they announced.
The official line from the government is that it is “committed to delivering a tax regime that makes the UK an attractive destination to set up and grow a business”. That doesn’t really deliver much in terms of substance or direction and could be trotted out by pretty much any free-economy Government.
And they don’t end there. More platitudes were evident with nods to reform proposals being taken in a “considered, evidence-based manner” – as opposed to a rushed, blind faith approach I presume?
Looking back to when the Committee gave its damning verdict, they claimed the current system wasn’t fit for purpose, so any in-depth review needs to start sooner rather than later to get proposals on the table and through Parliament. Unfortunately, with the new Chancellor’s first budget looming this week, Brexit deal posturing and Corona Virus sucking up valuable government time, I don’t see business rates making it on to the Treasury’s to-do list any time soon.
In the meantime, the Check Challenge Appeal system groans under the strain and businesses are left in limbo waiting for their appeals, successful or otherwise, to wind their way through the process.
Dominic Curran, property policy advisor at the British Retail Consortium summed it up quite neatly recently: “The government’s response to the Treasury Select Committee whitewashes the many issues which were raised in its report. The Select Committee outlined a number of recommendations aimed at fixing everything from the broken appeals system to the negative impact on investment, yet it appears to have fallen on deaf ears.”