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Business rates fears

British Retail Consortium call for reform amid predictions of 80,000 shop closures

MINISTERS have been warned that changing shopping habits and the growing burden of taxes could cause almost two out of three town centre shops to close by 2017.

According to the British Retail Consortium, the closures could lead to the loss of 800,000 jobs so are calling on Chancellor George Osborne to improve the climate for retailers by reforming the business rates system.
Retail Week reported that the BRC have based their figures on what would happen if 60 per cent of High Street retailers who have leases expiring in the next two years opted not to renew them.
The BRC branded business rates a “tax on jobs and growth” following the prediction they will bring in around £280billion for the Treasury this year – more than council tax.
The Retail Week report said that in the last Autumn Statement the Chancellor promised he would launce a review of the business rates system, pledging to deliver the findings by the 2017 Budget.
Retail Week added that the BRC report predicts that even if all store leases are renewed there will still be 8,000 fewer shops on the UK’s High Streets owing to the continued growth of online shopping, leading to 80,000 job losses.
The group wants Osborne to provide a tax relief for small business, scrap the inflation-linked increase in business rates and conduct property valuations every three years instead of five to make the system fairer for retailers.
The BRC said in its report: “For a government which has advocated pro-growth policies to support business and embed the recovery, business rates are an anomaly and stand out in an otherwise moderate tax regime.
“Business rates are a tax on jobs and growth and when combined with structural changes to the retail industry risk leading to far more store closures, job losses and high street vacancies.
“It is essential that we work together to design a tax that reflects the economic reality facing businesses.”

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