High street boss calls for business rates overhaul and digital tax to help retailers

Iceland boss backs calls for overhaul of “outdated” business rates and a digital tax to help the ailing high street.

Richard Walker called the current business rates system ‘outdated and Victorian’ and comes days after the business faced criticism over decision to keep hold of business rates relief for the past financial year despite continuing to trade as an essential retailer through lockdown.Top of FormBottom of Form

He said the need for a digital sales tax to support the recovery of the high street. At the onset of the pandemic, the Chancellor announced a business rates holiday for retailers for the year but more than £2 billion in relief was handed back by essential retailers such as Tesco which saw huge customer demand and soaring home deliveries.

Mr Walker told the media at the time that the company was right to take the relief but was declining to take the extended tax relief announced by the Government in February.

“We absolutely believe that we have come to the right decision” he said. “You look at some of the companies who paid it back, like Asda and Sainsbury’s – they then announced thousands of job cuts after.

“Having that relief meant we could preserve jobs, that’s what it was given to the sector to do. And actually, we’ve since been able to create jobs. So now, we felt that further support wasn’t needed so won’t take the extension.”

The high-profile boss was highly critical of the current business rates system which kicks back in, with discounts for some high street businesses, from July. He said: “I think we need a digital sales tax and I say that with a business with a really strong online business.

“You need to completely change business rates as they are, but there also has to be some form of rebalancing with online because otherwise we will be killing off the high street as it is.”