Business rates and the Autumn Budget

Stuart Hicks, Manchester Office, Director - Dunlop HeywoodBy Stuart Hicks, Director.

Changes to the business rates system could be on the way for the Autumn Budget next month, according to Secretary of State for Business Greg Clark, but personally I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Speaking at the recent Federation of Small Businesses’ fringe event in Manchester, the MP said the party’s review of business rates is at an “advanced stage”. However, Chancellor Phillip Hammond later told the Treasury Committee that the business rate review and budget announcement may be related to the “staircase tax” element of business rates, which sees business charged extra rates for operating on different levels.

Some political pundits think that the Conservatives are considering capping appeals for overpayment of rates to six months, that could cost small retailers thousands of pounds; others are hoping there will be significant changes announced to the much-criticised “Check, Challenge, Appeal” system.

Whilst businesses and particularly retailers may be watching the budget on the 22nd with keen interest I don’t envisage any major announcements on business rates, with possibly stamp duty and pension tax relief set for centre stage this time around.  There will be some re-announcements around May’s party conference speech on freezing tuition fees and more money flowing towards stimulating the starter homes market but I doubt there will be any further relief or help on the business rates’ front, with the Government’s focus firmly on European issues and very little spare cash swilling around the Treasury coffers to play with. What is available will be needed to start contingency planning for the possibility of a “no deal” Brexit.

An announcement on the long-awaited business rate review would be helpful but I still see the Autumn Budget as too soon for the grand unveiling particularly as the national press are focused on other issues right now.