Third of high street firms miss business rates relief

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The government failed to support a third of high street businesses in England, according to new figures, promising discounts on their business rates bills.

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Property experts at Gerald Eve found that just 272,000 of the promised 400,000 retailers, leisure and hospitality venues were able to claim a 50% rebate on the commercial property tax announced in the last budget.

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It comes as industry experts have warned that businesses could face an overall £4.7bn increase in trade rates next year without action.

The data comes from freedom of information requests to councils in England asking them how many businesses in their area have benefited from the rate relief.

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Business rates relief was given to companies in areas affected by the pandemic shutdown to aid in the recovery of the high road.

This means 128,000 have been left out and the government has been asked to ensure that any new support for businesses is properly targeted in the upcoming mini-budget.

The main reason why only two-thirds of businesses were able to access the 50% discount is because the former chancellor set a limit of £110,000 on the amount each business could receive, rather than on assets.

This means that retailers and hospitality operators with multiple sites cannot take advantage of their first few properties other than that.

UKHospitality is one of the industry bodies to call for a VAT cut along with another business rates holiday to help firms facing heavy cost inflation and declining consumer sentiment in an update due on Friday .

Gerald Eve also called on the government to extend the 50% exemption next year to support businesses.

Without extending support, retailers and the leisure and hospitality sectors – which were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic – can expect their business rates bills to rise by up to £1.7 billion.

This is in addition to rates rising from CPI inflation levels for September, which economists estimate could be around 10%, potentially adding a further £30bn in taxes.

Jerry Shuder, trade rate policy lead at Gerald Eve, said: “The new chancellor should avoid the mistakes of his predecessor when he announces support for businesses on Friday.

“Naturally, a lot of attention will be paid to support for sky-high energy bills, but it won’t make sense if those same firms saw their business rates high.

“In the 2019 manifesto, the Conservatives promised a fundamental review of rates and a reduction in the burden on the retail sector, but three years later, as of now, nothing has been delivered.

“The new prime minister told businesses she wanted to intervene to improve rates. Now she has to deliver.”

Credit: www.standard.co.uk /

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