New chancellor faces old issues when it comes to rates’ reform

Stuart Hicks, Manchester Office, Director - Dunlop Heywood

By Stuart Hicks. Director

Whether the new Chancellor Sajid Javid is more sympathetic to the plight of UK businesses struggling with business rates remains to be seen, but lobbyist and pressure groups are wasting no time in beating a path to his door to discuss the issue.

Revo, the representative body for the UK retail property sector, has published an open letter to chancellor Javid calling for an urgent review of business rates before we find ourselves at the October 31 Brexit deadline. In the letter, Revo argued that government policy to make the UK attractive to international business is being undermined by the property tax which is out of date in today’s fast changing domestic and global economies.

The body – which includes property owners, occupiers, local authorities and advisers – described previous government actions around business rates as “tinkering”, and requested a meeting with Javid to discuss its recommendations which include:

  1. Lowering or, at least, freezing the business rates multiplier
  2. Removing downwards transitional phasing so that any benefit from a fall in the tax is experienced instantly
  3. A move to annual revaluations
  4. Exploring a new tax on online sales and services to offset a reduction in business rates.

The letter states: “the broken business rates system …in its current form, is simply out of place in 2019, damaging business, undermining capital investment and ruining communities at a time of unparalleled transformation in this digital age.”

Revo, I am sure, will have to get in line behind other industry stalwarts such as the CBI and British Retail Consortium which are equally desperate to get in the door at No 11, but there are no signs as yet that Javid is laying out the welcome mat for anyone wanting to discuss business rate reforms.