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Hope for retailers

Government report welcomed by BIRA with online sales tax and business rates proposals


THE latest Government report into the future of High Streets and town centres has been welcomed by BIRA as giving hope to indie retailers.

The House Of Commons’ Housing, Communities & Local Government Committee’s study contains recommendations for rates reform based on suggestions by the British Independent Retailers Association and increased investment in town centres.
Looking ahead to 2030, they propose an online sales tax to help secure the future of the High Street saying “business rates are stacking the odds against High Street retailers” and the Government must give “considerations to proposals for an online sales tax to level the playing field”.
The committee’s report added: “The Government should conduct an assessment of proposed remedies proposed to the committee over the course of the inquiry, including a sales tax, an increase in VAT, an online sales tax and green taxes on deliveries and packaging.”
Andrew Goodacre, CEO of BIRA, who work with more than 6,000 independent businesses, took part in the inquiry alongside member Martin Foster of Lakeland Leather, and he said: “We broadly agree with the findings and recommendations set out in the report.
“It’s clear that High Streets and town centres will change, and many stakeholders have an important role to play. It requires vision and leadership at a local government level, with funding from central government.
“Furthermore, we’re pleased to see it being recognised that independent retail businesses will be crucial in providing the diversity and quality retail experience demanded by the consumers and our members should feel encouraged by this.
“It’s important for MPs to realise that High Streets are not just about the major chains and that independents do and will continue to play a key role.”
While no clear solution is given on how business rates can be reformed, the committee called them “increasingly outdated and far from ideal”, and recommend consideration of BIRA’s suggestion for an allowance, similar to an income tax allowance, to lessen the complexity and administrative burden of rates reliefs.
Andrew added: “We’re really pleased that the report makes direct reference to BIRA’s proposal of introducing a rates allowance, something we passionately believe will support independent retail businesses. We’re continuing our campaign on rates and will be responding to the new inquiry looking specifically at rates reform.”
BIRA also welcomes the committee’s suggestion to use funds generated by any new taxation of online businesses to reduce business rates for bricks and mortar retailers, as well as a 12-month rates holiday for those retailers who have seen an increase in their rates following investment in their properties.

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