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MPs hear BIRA’s rates plan

Association propose allowance to ease business taxation burden on indie retailers


YESTERDAY saw BIRA present their plan for business rates reform to MPs at the Houses Of Parliament as the association seek to help independent retailers struggling with payments.

The British Independent Retailers’ Association asked MPs yesterday (Tuesday, September 11) to consider changing the current £12,000 threshold to an allowance, as a much-needed short-term solution.
With retailers paying far more than any other industry, nearly one quarter of the collective annual £7billion business rates bill, BIRA believe such an allowance would help the majority of small businesses and make the difference between closing or surviving in 2018 and beyond.
Business rates are not charged on a firm’s profitability, only on the perceived value of the property they run from, so the organisation and their members contend the current system fails to place the burden of taxation on those most able to pay.
The visit to Parliament follows a two-year campaign on the issue. And BIRA CEO Alan Hawkins said: “Today was a very significant moment in business rates reform and to have such an audience has been extremely encouraging.
“It shows that BIRA’s proposed solution to the unfair tax is gaining traction and that the Government are looking for a fair and simple solution, which is what we can offer. There is still work to be done and we won’t give up until independent retailers are on a level playing field
“While the Government offered some help to smaller businesses in the last revaluation by doubling the Small Business Rates Relief threshold from £6,000 to £12,000 and tapered relief up to £15,000, this doesn’t help the majority of retailers, who on average have a rateable value of £34,000.
“We propose a simple allowance, ahead of a full review of the system, using the same principles of the personal allowance applied to income tax, and through this we believe the majority of those businesses struggling with their tax would see a reduction in their rates. All those below the allowance, which could be for example £12,000, would be out of the system completely, cutting down the resource needed to process these.
“Bricks and mortar retailers are already at a disadvantage and being asked to compete on an unlevel playing field. Many retail businesses saw an increase in their rates bill last year, while the average bill for Amazon fell by 1.3 per cent. Our proposal would redress some of the balance, as an allowance would automatically reduce the bill of those businesses that need the most help.”
Geoffrey Clifton Brown MP, who is championing the campaign, said: "I was extremely impressed and encouraged by BIRA’s proposal. It offers a simple and practical method, which would bring instant relief to many thousands of hard pressed retailers, who are the back bone of our country."
BIRA national president Surinder Josan, who owns All Seasons DIY in Smethwick, West Midlands, said: “Retail has evolved over the last decade. New businesses entering the field are pushing the way forward, bringing in new and exciting ways to reach customers.
“The business rates model, which was applicable decades ago is simply no longer fit for purpose. It’s time to apply a new method of taxation to address the imbalances across the bricks and mortar and digital landscape.”
Monika Curry runs Bodenhams fashion store in Ludlow, Shropshire, with husband Roger, added: “Business rates are our biggest headache. Our rates increased from £18,500 to £24,000 as our basic rateable value almost doubled, which resulted in a 30 per cent increase in the bill and it’s due to in¬crease by another £2,000 next year. What is frustrating is that the money is not really going back into the town. It’s being spent across the county.”
BIRA believe an allowance would simplify the system, with no need for the current complicated Small Business Rates Relief which varies from council to council and costs the Government £2.6bn to administer.

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