Government responds to business rates inquiry

Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC) member ACS has called on the Government to “get on with” its fundamental review of business rates after broadly dismissing recommendations made by the Treasury Select Committee.

As reported by the ACT, the Government’s official response to the Treasury Select Committee’s inquiry on business rates, published on Friday 28th February, defends the operation of the current business rates system and commits to the Committee’s concerns being dealt with as part of an upcoming fundamental review.

Issues raised by the Treasury Select Committee as part of their inquiry include:

– The current approach to business rates acts as an immediate significant disincentive to investment
– The Government should look at where case law currently stands on what assets are included in rateable values and should consider whether legislation is required to ensure the categories are fit for the modern economy
– It is unacceptable that there are still appeals outstanding from the 2010 listing, years after the appeals were first raised
In its response, the Government states that it is ‘committed to delivering a tax regime that makes the UK an attractive destination to set up and grow a business’. The response also states that ‘options for reform should be undertaken in a considered, evidence-based manner – considering significant changes to the business rates system as part of conducting a fundamental review.’

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The Treasury Select Committee inquiry raised a lot of valid points about business rates not being fit for purpose, so if the Government is going to defer to the long-awaited fundamental review then that needs to get started as soon as possible. While we wait for this fundamental review, appeals still aren’t being dealt with, retailers are putting off investment plans, some businesses are paying business rates bills that are flagrantly unfair, and consumers are seeing their high streets suffer.”

Ahead of the Budget on March 11th, ACS has called for the Chancellor to give a much-needed boost to businesses by:

– Ensuring that investment in improving a business doesn’t come with the threat of increased rates bills as a result
– Removing ‘through the wall’ ATMs from the rating list altogether
– Reviewing sector schemes resulting in disproportionate rates bills, notably for petrol forecourts
– Publishing the terms of reference for the business rates review, to reduce the burden of business rates on business

The full Government response to the Committee’s inquiry is available here.

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